Medical Disasters and How to Avoid Them (Part 3)

The new documentary by Michael Moore called SICKO has launched nationwide heralding the cry of health care reform due to the inadequacies of the health care system. Dr. Pierce Scranton, an Orthopedic Surgeon, arms us with practical tips on how to take charge of our own experiences while at a hospital and he teaches us how to protect ourselves and prevent any travesty that could occur. In a series of six articles, HealthWorld Online and Dr. Pierce Scranton, will provide actual case by case, behind the scenes scenarios, along with tips on how NOT to have these experiences happen to you.

In the third installment, you will hear a story of a gynecological operation gone awry.

Case 3 – E.P.’s Gynecological Surgery

E. P. was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. She had had an uneventful gynecological operation, but she was having significant pain. It was a Saturday evening, and her surgeon was out of town for the weekend. Because the hospital was short-staffed, the night nurse was a temporary agency nurse not familiar with the floor. She called the answering service for surgeons on-call partner. He was busy in the operating room treating another patients hemorrhagic ectopic pregnancy, but he called out over the intercom-phone for the nurse to give the patient 30 milligrams of intravenous Toradol for the pain. The nurse immediately gave the medicine IV with great relief for the patient.

Unfortunately E.P. had a significant allergy to Naprosyn, and the busy temporary nurse and on-call doctor did not know this. Toradol is a direct relative of Naprosyn. Two hours later the patient became short of breath and began vomiting blood. She had perforated an abdominal ulcer due to the reaction to Toradol. She required an emergency hemi-gastrectomy.

How to be pro-active and ask questions to avoid this problem:

  1. Be actively engaged in the decisions collaborative, not confrontational. If you are going to have surgery near a weekend, find out if your doctor will be seeing you personally until you are safely discharged. Mistakes happen when care is handed off to other doctors. They mean well and are competent physicians, but when a doctor is called to treat you who does not know you, it is more likely that a mistake can occur. If you feel uncomfortable having surgery before a weekend, ask your doctor to perform the surgery during the week when they will see you themselves every day.

  2. Be vigilant at all times, especially about medications. Know your allergies! Have a pharmacist create a list for you of the medicines you know you are allergic to and other medicines that are in the same family. Know what other medicines can be used safely, and what medicines with a different name but same class can cause the same allergic response.

Remember, it’s your health and well-being that’s on the line. Be engaged in the process, and stay healthy!

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Written by Pierce Scranton MD

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