Daughter advocates for ailing father suffering from hospital infections
Back on July 8th, 2004, my father went into the hospital for what his surgeon said would be an easy valve replacement with the expectation he would be out of the hospital within 7-10 days. My father was 79 and in relatively good shape and a well built man. The first surgery was done, taking a good 9 or more hours. Within 2 hours after coming out of surgery, we were told there was a leak where blood was filling around the heart sack, so they had to go back in and perform another 9 hours of surgery. We found out that apparently there was some calcification which they thought would not be an issue but once they closed my dad up, blood started to seep thru where the calcification was that was not addressed in the initial surgery. Surprisingly, my dad, being a strong man, survived all this surgery though it took a while for him to come around.
Within a few weeks he seemed to be on his way to recovering well and there was another problem. Apparently he developed an infection in one of the valves so they had to open him yet again to take care of that problem. When we thought things were finally under control, they informed us again that he developed an infection in the sternum and had to go in again. After going in again for the infection that developed in the sternum, they could no longer close his chest because of opening him so many times so they had his chest open, with a vaccum suction in it sucking out any fluids that were building up. He was this way for about 4-5 days. At this time, they had a plastic surgeon come in to see if he could close his chest and he called me to say that he could not close it because my father had become so dehydrated that his skin was thin and opaque and would not close up. I questioned how someone on IV becomes so dehydrated and was told that the fluids he was getting were going to help fight the infection and I asked if that was the case why did didn’t just give him more fluids then to make sure he remained hydrated. All they would say to me was that I didn’t understand.
Between all these surgeries, I made numerous complaints to their Patient Advocate unit and even addressed my letter to the head of the hospital. They had a social worker contact me who kept asking what she could do for me and I told her that there was nothing they could do for me but make my dad better.
Also, in this timeframe in the hospital, after his 3rd surgery, a nurse was taking him for a walk down the hall. My father had a pacemaker which we found out had a connection that was not connected quite right and would flap around. Well, as she took my dad for a walk (she was 9 months pregnant), they made it to the visitor area and when they were heading back to his room he tried to tell her something didn’t feel right. Apparently, the pacemaker lost a temporary connection, flapped and my dad passed out. In the process, he ended up hitting his head and arm on furniture in the visitor’s room. When I went to see him later that day, he had horrible black and blue marks on his face and arm because of the cumadin he was on. I was very upset and told the hospital staff and they didn’t seem too concerned over it. My dad was in ICU for five months and only got out maybe twice for a day or two.
The remainder of his life was spent in ICU. There were CONSTANT infections which I believe was the cause of his not getting better and eventually becoming nothing but a shell of a person. Some of the incidences that come to mind were: nicking his lungs a few times while trying to drain fluid, damage to his esophagus from pushing tubes constantly down his throat and causing damage, going in and finding the mat under him had diarrhea on it and him having a horrible burning rash. When I asked the nurse about it she told me that because he had only gone "a little" they were not going to change the mat just yet.
By the time the five months had passed in ICU, my dad was in total kidney failure, skin completely opaque, complete trach, he could no longer speak, tubes were everywhere in him and he withered away, he couldn’t eat and couldn’t breathe on his own. There were times he had been over-medicated but one of my numerous complaints to the hospital brought up the head of Geriatics who said he felt for his age he had been overmedicated so they decreased what he was on. He developed horrible skin rashes so severe on his legs that the skin was peeling. I NEVER saw them take him out for walks when he was well enough to walk and even he himself told me that. By the time they were done with him, the only thing aware was his mind. He would NEVER be better again and if we kept him alive, he would be living on a respirator, trach, and dialysis, never move, swallow, eat on his own or talk. The destroyed a beautiful human being which the only recourse left was to have his life support turned off and let him go peacefully and with dignity. I’ve never gone thru such a terrible and heart wretching five months like I did fighting for my dad to no avail. I called numerous attorneys because I felt the hospital was to blame for what happened to my dad. Not one attorney would take the case. The answer from them was……infections happen. Yes, I believe that, but you can never convince me that this many infections happen to one person when they are in ICU all that time. I believe there was serious neglect and my dad and, we, his family paid the price for that. My dad went into the hospital on July 8th 2004 and died November 12th 2004.