Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Letting Go

As close as I’m going to get to writing about that day:
(From an email to a local newspaper)

I am a 32-year-old woman who’s been married to her high school
sweetheart for a 3.5 years now, and we have been trying to have a baby
for 2 of those years.  We have a diagnosis of unexplained infertility,
and, as no other tests have come back showing that there’s anything
wrong for us, the next test for me to get was a laparascopy to check
out my uterus.  My doctor, [RE], set up my
surgery at St. Peter’s Hospital for December 21st, 2010.

However, in addition to this diagnosis, I also have a repaired
congenital heart defect, so my cardiologist in Boston also sent a
lengthy note to [my RE], who in turn gave it to St. Peter’s
Hospital, about my condition and the fact that I needed cardiac
anesthesia.  In fact, this was the reason for going to St. Peter’s in
the first place, as Albany Memorial, where I was originally scheduled
to go in November 2010, did not have anesthetists with the proper

On December 16, 2010, I went to pre-op testing at St. Peter’s as
planned. I had bloodwork, an EKG and met with a nurse for a
specialized nursing interview because of my heart condition.  I
personally viewed my cardiologist’s note in her binder and we
discussed my condition.  All in all, I lost about a half day’s work
for this testing.

On Monday, December 20th, I received a phone call from St. Peter’s
informing me that due to my previous blood transfusions in prior heart
surgery, I needed to come in for additional bloodwork for
cross-typing/matching in case I ended up needing a blood transfusion
for this relatively minor procedure. I went to St. Peter’s during my
lunch hour to do the additional bloodwork they needed.

My surgery was scheduled for 1pm on December 21st, 2010. Per the
directions I received, I did not eat or drink anything after midnight,
so as you can imagine, 1pm seemed like forever away.  I arrived right
on time at 11am for my surgery, was brought back with my husband to
the initial surgical room, where a nurse met with me to go over my
records, and inserted an IV.  I had not yet heard anything about my
cardiac anesthetist and it made me extremely nervous, so I kept asking
if I could speak to him/her.

Finally, around 1pm, I said goodbye to my husband and was wheeled up
(without glasses) to PACU, the staging area before surgery.  Blind
without my glasses, I kept asking to speak with the cardiac
anesthetist, because this was to be my first non-cardiac surgery and I
was worried.  I hadn’t signed any consents yet, so I knew I couldn’t
be wheeled in just yet, but without my glasses I felt at such a

Finally an anesthetist (Dr. Fantuzzi? not sure of spelling) came over
to talk with me, and I asked whether he did cardiac anesthesia or not.
He told me he did not, and I told him I needed someone who did. Once
again I informed him about my condition, and then and only then, did
he disappear somewhere to discuss with other doctors.
45 minutes later, my [RE] told me they would not be doing my
surgery because they did not feel comfortable with their ability to
monitor cardiac anesthesia for a patient with a congenital heart

I was floored. Here I was, IV in, hairnet over my head, literally 2
minutes away from being wheeled into surgery, it’s now around 2pm and
they NOW determine this? They had had my chart for nearly a month!
What made it worse was a Dr. Desai came to speak to me after [my RE]
 (also dumbfounded with what had happened) and
condescended to tell me that no matter what I told them, they were not
going to do the surgery.

There is NO WAY I would want anyone who doesn’t feel capable of
monitoring my condition doing surgery on me.
But I was furious. This surgery can only be done during a certain time
in my cycle. The hospital not only had caused great emotional distress
for me, I would also need to wait an additional cycle until I could
get in to Albany Med or someplace else to get it done. As someone
who’s been hoping and trying for a baby for so long, the news was
additionally devastating.  As well, I also lost a day and a half (and
my husband a day) of work because of this.

I asked to speak to patient rep. about this and spoke with Kathy
Foley.  She told me she it was completely their fault, she would get
to the bottom of it, and the next day called both myself and my
husband to say they were going to do a QI into the incident.

Of course, we wanted someone held responsible. Because this could have
easily become a tragedy due to the hospital’s inability to read my
chart in advance of my surgery. I’m a young, healthy woman, vocal
enough about my own medical care because I know how easily someone can
fall through the cracks.  What if I’d been an elderly lady without the
energy to constantly be reminding everyone of my condition?

Needless to say, 4 weeks had gone by and I had not heard anything from
St. Peter’s. I called Ms. Foley yesterday to ask what is the status of
the investigation.  She called me back today and said that the review
was done, that there had been a lack of communication by one
anesthesiologist Dr. Phytone, who reviewed my chart weeks ago, but was
out the day of my surgery and my chart was not communicated to anyone
the day of the surgery.She admitted they did not need my needs and
their “lack of communication caused my emotional distress.” She said
they had changed their communication methods, whatever that means.

But honestly, it’s more than just my emotional distress (which
honestly, was the worst thing out of this whole incident but something
you can’t put a price tag on.)  I lost a day and a half from work
because of St. Peter’s.  My husband lost a day.  I told her, “since
you have admitted your fault, and you caused me to go through this
when it was your people who did not read my chart as you should have,
I want to be recompensed for the time we lost.” She told me she needed
to call Ann Martin, a patient rep.  But only 20 minutes later, she
called me back, said she spoke to Sharon Fuld of Risk Managment, and
that they do not that. So, on top of all the emotional distress they
have caused due to THEIR negligence, they won’t even refund the $800
dollars my husband and I have in lost pay.  Given what happened, the
least they could do is try to make me whole that way.

I did everything they asked me to do. Pre-op testing, pre-surgical
preparation, I made sure they had my doctor’s note.  With all that I
went through, they won’t even pay for my lost time? It’s insult on top
of injury, and I’m disgusted.

I will NEVER go to St. Peter’s for anything ever again based on their
treatment of me and my husband.  And I guarantee that they likely
would have made more than $800 if I ever did.

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