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Doctor: Keeping My Mom Safe in Hospital Was Difficult

So often when our Pembroke Pines nursing home negligence attorneys are talking to doctors, it’s in the form of a deposition or questioning them in open court about an oversight or inadequacy.

These are the people we expect and hope will look after our loved ones as if they were their own – or at the very least, maintain a basic standard of care. As we’ve seen all to often, though, that doesn’t happen.

In light of this, it was interesting to read an account by a first-year medical student – now doctor – of how the hellish months preceding her mother’s death were marked by multiple instances of preventable medical errors and and sometimes outright neglect. In her own words, the doctor says, speaking to investigative news agency ProPublica, “It was really eye opening for me to see the reality of how difficult it was to keep her safe.”

Her mother was young, in her early 60s, when she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Among the instances the new doctor now recounts:
–Her mother, hallucinating, pulled a series of head staples following a recent procedure. Her daughter arrived to find her mother covered in blood. Staff members were nowhere to be seen.
–Her mother’s eye was blackened after a stethoscope fell on her face.
–Her mother suffered a number of falls;
–Her mother suffered severe side effects as a result of staff not properly monitoring her condition;
–She only narrowly avoided having unnecessary brain surgery and being given a drug that was not prescribed to her.

All of this, her Harvard Medical School graduate daughter says now, hastened her death. Her mother passed away four years ago, six months after being admitted for care.

Given her experience up until that point, the doctor believed she and her family were doing everything right. They chose a nationally well-ranked facility. The daughter says that many times when there were problems, it stemmed from seemingly understandable oversights. Still, it didn’t make the results any less painful – or the staff any less responsible.

For example, one day when her mother fell from bed, the alarm didn’t go off. That was because there were two alarms – one for the chair and one for the bed – but only one electrical outlet. Both alarms had identical cords, and the wrong one was accidentally plugged in. So her mother lie there for a long time before someone found her.

She said medication errors were a constant problem. Her seizure medication, for example, was supposed to be closely monitored and adjusted depending on her nutrition level. With hand-off after hand-off, from doctor to doctor, she says her mother was accidentally overdosed on numerous occasions, causing her to sleep for days. Perhaps this wouldn’t seem like the worst side effect, but this was a woman who was given months to live.

The new doctor says looking back, the biggest mistake happened during her chemotherapy treatment, which involved fluid being sent straight to her brain. The chemo was supposed to be once a week and the treatment was supposed to last her for that entire week. But the wrong drug was administered, and the treatment only lasted a day. Not having the appropriate chemotherapy for that amount of time, the doctor now says, could have been deadly.

Again, the new doctor notes the name and label of both drugs were nearly identical, and the facility didn’t have a pharmacist with specific knowledge of cancer drugs. In the end, the hospital ended up hiring a pharmacist who specialized in those medications, but it doesn’t prevent the same thing from happening somewhere else.

Although the setting of this situation was in a hospital, it bears many similarities to what happens in nursing homes across the country each and every day.

Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
What a New Doctor Learned About Medical Mistakes From Her Mom’s Death, Jan. 9, 2013, By Marshall Allen, ProPublica

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Negligence May Be Preceded By Staff Fatigue, Feb. 24, 2013, Pembroke Pines Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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