Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Open Letter to New York Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, (and to New Yorkers) and . . .

Written January 5, 2012 based on the care journal of my personal experiences regarding my stay.

RE: An Open Letter to NY Columbia Presbyterian Hospital by Tracy Iglesias

A warning to fellow New Yorkers and the Battle of my life:

I try not to use to my blog ever for snark, or for arm pulling. But I do use my words carefully and very much honestly at all times.

While I don't expect a response to this open letter because these details make for a good lawsuit, I feel it's important for a teaching institution who has signs everywhere taking pride in being a top 10 care institution for the past 10 years to really know how they are doing from the perspective of someone who just went through the fight of her life in their care (and I use the word 'care' to apply to this institution very loosely.)

I was transferred to the NY Columbia Presbyterian Millstein Building Oncology Ward on 12/31/11 after having spent an entire night in the ER of the Allen Pavilion which is located further uptown. It was during imaging taken at the ER where a mass was discovered on my lung, Allen didn't have a bed for me, and so at the urging of a doctor I met while in the ER at Allen (who actually was phenomenal) and the urging of a nurse who was taking care of me (who was also phenomenal), a bed was found for me where I have spent the past week at 6 Hudson North of Columbia Presbyterian. If only a bed had been found at Allen instead. A mass that had been there since imaging taken in October that I was NEVER told about. Had I been told in October I would have started this battle WAY sooner.

I want to start with a bit of background on the type of person I am. I will avoid aspirin for a Migraine if I can and try and start with meditation first and see if that dulls it. While women are not usually that way, much like a man, I'm private, stoic and tend to not share my pain. The pain that led me to the ER on 12/30 had me curled up in a ball in my bed, literally writhing in agony. I've never in my life experienced a pain so intense and pray to never experience something like that again.

It was a super long night in the waiting area of the ER before I was even triaged which is surprising for me, because as an asthmatic I don't normally experience super long waits. When I did finally get in the ER, a battery of tests and imaging was taken. I knew by the look of surprise on the person's face who took the images that things were not good. An amazing doc broke the news about the mass, about what the possibilities of the mass could be, and that I was definitely staying, they just didn't know where at that point. A bed could not be found at Allen, which I honestly regret to this day. I wonder how much easier things might have been there.

After a bumpy ambulance ride to the Millstein Building at Columbia Presbyterian, I arrived exhausted, in intense pain and in desperate need of rest. Who knew it would be the first and only time I'd see my bed made.

In the morning an agonizing trip to the bathroom made me wonder if I was in a hospital room or a movie theater. The all too familiar to most New Yorkers feet sticking to the ground and squeaking sound greeted my feet. The bathroom was entirely like something from a cheesy motel from a horror movie. Filthy floor, a large piece of missing tile (that can't be sanitary), a gross mirror you can barely see yourself in, a broken paper towel holder with paper towels above the holder just floating loose, and the remnants of my 'roomie's' bedpan still stuck to the upper lid because the folks emptying it don't take the time to lift the lid (a daily occurence by the way). What a lovely day one.

My bed was never made, I was never offered a shower. My mother thought she'd give me a shower, but cut her fingers on the broken shower head.

After 5 days I put my foot down about new bedding, and someone finally arrived with this bedding and threw it on a chair and began to walk away. I asked her should I move to the chair so she could make the bed. She barely glanced back and said 'It's not my job to make your bed', 'contact your nurse'. After about another hour a harried and apparently put upon NA made my bed, huffing the whole time. I'd pay you to find me the infamous 'hospital corner' I've heard so much of. When asked about when beds get made I was told every other day. That did NOT happen. My bedding was only changed once (quite a nightmare since you wake up every single with night sweats from the pain meds), and that's because I literally put my foot down about it or it would have NEVER happned the entire visit. Even most dogs have neater beds.

While my room was not hospitable in any way for a human, it would have made a great spare freezer. I thought my body temperature may have been off because of my meds until every single visitor I have had would put their coat right back on including scarf. I asked a nurse about raising the room temperature and she said she couldn't adjust it (she did try) and would contact maintenance (it seems like there is a person for every single thing, but you never find out who that 'person' is.). Maintenance has still not adjusted the temperature and I've endured a room as cold or probably colder than the current temperature outside here in New York City.

I was supposed to have a 'Bronchoscopy' on Tuesday, so I was placed on an NPO order (nothing by mouth Monday after midnight). After a tense morning, I was never taken in, and of course had to miss meals just to find out they wouldn't have an OR for me until Wednesday. So again Tuesday night another NPO order after midnight, and because of the time the procedure was scheduled I missed pretty much a whole day of meals. But that would actually turn out to be the easy part.

The transport person to take me to the OR, didn't come in my room, didn't offer to transfer me to the stretcher or even help me walk to it. My family got me to the stretcher, and asked her for a sheet because I was freezing. She literally sucked her teeth and muttered about what a pain in the ass 'these' patients are and practically threw the sheet on me. Honestly despite my weakened state, the New Yorker in me and Bronxite that I am was rising to the surface. And oh does it get better. We get to a walkway with a steep downward incline, and she locks the wheels of the stretcher while at the begining of the downward part of that incline and walks away leaving me in a position that would block anyone trying to get by on both doors and it was freezing there, not to mention if a wheel had unlocked my stretcher would have went careening over like a top. I ask her where she is going, and this was her reply 'YOU are too heavy for me this thing is too heavy and I need a man to wheel this thing over the incline so just stay there and deal with it.' So after a long chit chat with this 'man' about their respective holiday weekends, he began pumping up the stretcher much like you jack a car tire. I firmly asked him to STOP, that he was causing tremendous pain in the area where the mass is located and I had it made to clear to avoid my left side, and asked that they avoid bumping the stretcher against walls. He looked right at me and replied 'I have to worry about MY health'. And I made him repeat it just to make sure I had heard right.

As they pulled me in to the endoscopy waiting area, I was wheeled into a twilight zone of people pale as a sheet, moaning, some louder than others, and had a feeling I was in for something....

I was told the lead doctor was a Dr. Bulman, he never arrived, which means my procedure was performed by an attending, I did NOT agree to that. But that's not the worst part, it is what happens next that gets interesting. This was going to be performed under what's called 'twilight' sleep. You are breathing on your own and not entirely put under. You are asked a series of questions to gauge your readiness for them to begin. I didn't miss a question. No answer was incoherent. I told the Doctor, I'm still too lucid, all of my answers are still making sense, I don't think you should begin.

I've seen those shows on TV, even movies where someone undergoing a surgery wakes up and sees, hears and worsely FEELS everything.  Count me among them.

I woke up with a start, my glasses had been removed so I couldn't see with focus, but saw the camera, felt what was happening, and coughed so hard I'm sure everyone's fear was I would cough up the camera.

Of course then they decide to overcompensate for the error and give me too much Twilight. When I wake up, not ONE person came and spoke to me and the nausea was so severe I literally felt like I was dying. Thankfully the exasperated rude woman who transported me there wasn't the one who transported me back, but that's still not saying anything. I was wheeled in front of my room and just left there moaning. I was in no condition to walk back to my bed and needed a transfer. My nurse and my mother (who has a bad back and now injured fingers thanks to the showerhead in the bathroom here) had to slide me from the stretcher to the bed. Hard on them and hard on me. And shouldn't have happened in a hospital that prides itself on the quality of the care they provide.

On Wednesday I missed an entire day of meals and when something finally did come, I couldn't tolerate it because of the meds. (I was given morphine to manage the pain post procedure). We asked for soft foods as the endoscopy still had my throat sore, and it wasn't until 1:30 in the morning that one cup of lemon ice and one cup of pudding arrived. You try being on enough meds to choke a horse for a week and skip an entire day of meals.......

My psycho, racist room-mate puts her TV on so loud you can hear it from the elevators and this is ALL day long, she does not put it off, and she never turns off her light. And pre surgery when a nurse was speaking with me, she literally told that nurse that because she has money, that whenever she needs something it will always get precedence over me and my needs. She also told someone she was speaking to on the phone that for a 'Hispanic Woman' I didn't seem to smell as bad as most of them normally do, WTF? Seriously? I know for a fact I wouldn't be allowed to get away with half of the non-sense this woman pulls.

But I will say that her theory about money and treatment is one that doesn't surprise me as I have experience working in a hospital myself, but seeing just how much the staff here agrees with it themselves and just how differently people are treated here is still a shocker in this day and age.

Apparently warm blankets are for the 9th floor, 'You know for the folks with MON....' and then a long pause which is what my mother was told when she asked for one for me since the heat was never fixed in my freezer, I mean room.

Sleeping in a bed I call a 'dogs nest' because it doesn't get made, no shower, not only because the shower in my room is broken and has not yet been repaired, but no one would do it for me even it was working. Thankfully I do have family and friends willing to if and WHEN the shower ever gets fixed (IF that happens before I get discharged remains to be seen). A procedure that wasn't even performed by the Doctor who I thought would do it, and then a team who was discussing the possibilities before they even had the dissection nevertheless the actual results from pathology has made for a surreal experience to say the least.

Even the seedy motel rooms you see in those 'b' horror movies have more potential than where I am staying. How are you supposed to take on the battle of your life in these conditions?

I am a woman of Faith and I am trying to walk in that Faith, speak in that Faith (despite such dire circumstances) and live in my Faith. It's been super difficult to keep my energy and spirits up here.

New Yorkers, if you ever find yourself in an ambulance (and I pray you do NOT) and you are coherent enough to hear you are being taken to Columbia Presbyterian, INSIST you be taken ANYWHERE else.

Aside from poor treatment and care, poor conditions of the rooms and staff that makes you feel you are putting upon them (despite the fact that in spite of my pain, not one person who dealt with me can say that they didn't get a please before I asked for anything and a Thank You after it arrived), this hospital has a caste system that is almost medieval. I am in the fight of my life right now and I haven't quite been given the tools to fight here.

They say that God helps to turn all bad around for our good, that there is a lesson in our trials, moments of sadness, moments of pain, I'm still trying to figure this one out, but I do thank all of my readers for their outpouring of prayer and concern for both my health and my wellbeing/spirits. It is because of you that I have had the courage to live out loud since 2009, to share my life and my feelings, my victories and my failures, each and every day and every day to day moment I have shared with you, and this is probably my most raw and open post to date. But please dear readers, avoid this hospital at all costs!

My aunt encouraged me to journal about my experiences and this post is shared from those journals. I am sure I won't get a response because they will be more concerned about a law suit than they ever were with my quality of care, but if they do respond (some pat answer sent by their PR folks after legal approves it) I will be sure to share it here. I'm sure we could both use the laugh.

If any Lawyer reads this and would like to contact me, please feel free, you can use the contact us page of this site to be in touch.

UPDATE:

I've taken some photos which will be added to this post as soon as I'm back home, but I thought I'd share my day today, Friday, 01/06/12. Today I was scheduled for a Pet Scan, I was not told the scan was in another building and I'd be transferred to the procedure from the outside. Let's remember, what's compromised is my Lungs, and I was transferred externally in the cold with a robe, never told I'd need my coat, Does that make any sense? Now I have a dry cough that is exacerbating the pain I am already experiencing. Transport was given incorrect information so after my test I was left in a HALLWAY to wait almost one hour for transport to come return me to my room, again with an external building transfer in the winter for someone with a compromised lung....... I ran into my doctor in the hall on my way back and he asks me are you going to your scan or coming from it? He asked this as he turned away and kept walking, it even got the transport person angry, and she replied before I could, she said, 'how about if you ask a patient a question that you turn and at least acknowledge her response?' He tersely replied he would come see me when he had the results, it's 9:09 pm and that was 1:30 pm and he has still not arrived. And yet yesterday and today I was told if the bone scan went well, I would be going home.....Looks like that isn't going to happen. My prayers are for Saturday, but it's getting harder to hold out hope. And then the fun really begins once I have all the test results back and finally know what I'm up against!

Best,

Ascending Butterfly

33 comments:

  1. Tracy, My thoughts and prayers are with you. Know that you are loved and this situation will you are going through will be over soon. Much love.

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  2. Oh.My.Goodness. I'm so sorry for your experiences. Being sick or injured and in the hospital is bad enough, but to be treated that way is horrific.
    I am basically speechless except to say that i am praying for you and wishing you healing and light(some heat too!)
    **many hugs**

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  3. Praying for you! I have been reading your blog for a few months. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

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  4. So sad to hear about your experience. I have been following your quite a while and know that you are a very positive person. I hope that you are feeling better despite the horrendous treatment. God Speed.

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  5. O-M-G!!! I'm sooo sorry that you've been treated this way, it's unforgiveable!!! As a Nurse (Who has worked on both Medical floors AND in Intensive CARE) can I offer you some suggestions? ALWAYS GET YOUR NURSE'S NAME, @ the beginning of each shift!!! And then:
    1) If you ask for something (Meds, food, clean sheets, a bedpan, WHATEVER!) and do NOT receive it in a reasonable amt of time, ask for the Charge Nurse. If that person doesn't show up, or you're given the run-around, ask for the Supervisor of the Unit. If THAT person doesn't show, ask for the HOUSE Supervisor. If you still don't get anywhere, ask for the Director of Nursing! (And if they put you off on THAT one, call the Hospital from an outside line & ask for the Director of Nursing or Chief Nursing officer.) And if THAT doesn't get you anywhere, ask for the Chief Operating officer of the Hospital. Your care has been substandard ( @ best!) and those who behaved this way SHOULD be reported! Also - you must have a Physician of record, one who makes rounds daily? Report all this to that Doctor. (Oh - and it wouldn't hurt to tell the COO that you are reporting this to your Insurance carrier as well!!!)
    2) Don't give up - keep asking for what you need - YOU are the Consumer here, and they have a job because of YOU!!!
    3) Hang in there -- God must think you can handle this, and maybe your experiences will beneft someone who is really sick & has no family to advocate for them.

    You're in my prayers -- Holly

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  6. i haven't even finished reading your post and I am crying over here at
    the inhumane treatment of that hospital. OMG! Once you are stablized asked to be transferred to Mt. Sinai. Believe me when I tell you theytreat patients like KINGS in the ER, the hospital, the waiting
    rooms...everywhere. You do not need to be suffering these condition ontop of what is going on with the mass.

    I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I feel so helpless but please
    try and get a transfer. Sending you lots of love.

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  7. i'm with Patty get a transfer!!! I am so sad for you right now it sounds terrible beyond terrible. Amiga I pray for you!

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  8. Dear Tracy...

    You know.. from the moment I met you.. I knew of you as assertive and a real positive person... and I know I just spoke to you a moment ago.. and couldn't even finish reading this post either as I couldn't hold back my tears. You are a strong woman Tracy.. I truly believe that you will get through this no matter what. All these mistreatment ... I do sincerely hope someone is reading all this.. can help you and be transferred as soon as possible. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family tonight and for tomorrow's test.. and will talk to you again real soon. Lots of love... and hope for (I am really sorry you are going through all this... hang in there sweety). Much love, Susan

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  9. Tracy!!! Wow, you are so full of strength even with all of this happening.

    I am in disbelief at what is going on there?! I work in three hospital settings so, I just can't believe the level of disregard. Shame shame on them.

    Yes, God presented this for something greater to come out of it- You might be the change, the catalyst for the hospital to actually provide the kind of care expected.

    My heart goes out to you and I will keep you in my prayers!

    XOXO

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  10. Oh My God girl.... i am so sorry that you are going through all of this. All of it!!!! I agree w/ Holly - God must want YOUR voice to EXPOSE this MADNESS!!! I turned down a legal job at a certain hospital because of the caste system they basically admitted to having and it truly digusts me. mya zod grant you the strength to get through this, to heal, to be treated like the wonderful human being that you are. in the mean time I will forward you the name of a colleague of mine. I hope he can help you kick some ass. Sending you light & love & prayers....

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  11. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and hopefully you will be able to switch hospitals.

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  12. Wow is all I can say. I am so sorry you are going through that :(

    Will be thinking of you.

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  13. my prayers are with you Tracy, and hope you have a speedy recovery~~

    take care and hugs,

    melissa mc

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  14. Tracy, I'm going to say a prayer.for.you right this minute. RVTember, God.fights for us. Dont lose hope. We're here and we know you will be ok. Hugs Tracy. God bless you. XO

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  15. How awful!!! can you request transfer to another hospital?

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  16. This is insane! I can't believe you're experiencing this! I'm so sorry to hear about all of this, especially your health!! Thank you for sharing and I pray to God you get better. The sad thing this is way too common, but no one ever speaks up. If you need ANYTHING email me info (at) blogsbylatinas (dot) com I'd more than happy to post, tweet, or whatever for you!! Praying for you!! -Monique

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  17. I am so sorry you have had to endure such awful treatment. Sending you love, strength, and best wishes. Thank you for sharing your harrowing tale.

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  18. Tracy, my prayers and good wishes are with you.

    Un beso from here.

    Carrie

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  19. I'm stunned! Hospitals are supposed to be a safe haven for patients not a hazard. I'm so sorry to learn that you have lung cancer -- keeping you in my thoughts, and hoping you will recover quickly. And please get a transfer!

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  20. Tracy, I am so sorry! This is absolutely terrible what happened to you and I applaud you for speaking out! I plan to share your story on my blog and will be praying for you! I sincerely hope that you find a way to right their wrongs by making them take accountability for every action they took while you were in their care. So sorry your had to deal with this experience!!

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  21. (((((hugs))))) Oh Tracy I am so sorry you are going through this. I am sending you prayers and good vibes.

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  22. Sending you positive light, healing energy, and prayers that this nightmare ends as quickly as possible! Let us know what we can do to help !

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  23. Tracy, I'm just horrified you've had this terribly degrading treatment. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I'm pulling for you 1000%!

    Manny

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  24. So sorry you had to go through this. I hope the hospital follows up swiftly and apologizes for the substandard care you were provided. Praying for strength and a quick recovery.

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  25. Tracy I'm so sorry you are going through this I hope you sue them this is inhumane what you are going through , we live in a 1st world country this cannot be happening. I hope you get better stay strong! <3

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  26. This is horrific. Praying for you that you get the care and compassion you deserve.

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  27. It's hard to believe that conditions like this exist for those who are already sick and in pain - those who need compassion, care, or at the very least, a hygienic place to heal. It's completely outrageous what you and the other patients at that hospital are going through. I hope things change soon. Wishing you health and strength. Keep fighting. We're all pulling for you.

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  28. My heart and prayers are with you.
    So sorry for what you have been through, mama. Where are you now and how are you now?
    sending love and light.
    You deserve better for sure.
    xo
    KIM

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  29. OMG, So sorry for your ordeal. You deserve better. Sending you love an light. Where are you and how are you now?
    You are in my prayers

    ((((BIG HUG))))
    Kim

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  30. I'm so sorry that you are going through such a terrible experience. My daughter moved back East to Johnstown Penn. where she had her second child. Her experince was horrible too. The epidural they gave her didn't work. She felt the whole c section screaming.

    It's as if there's a whole epidemic of unhappy medical workers. My own experience a few years ago wasn't pleasant either. I believe that everyone is taking a risk to trust yourself to anyone in the medical field. Our trust must be in Jesus not man. I'll be praying that you get a great doctor and changed to a different hospital soon. I'm also going to ask God to heal the mass. In Jesus Name. God Bless.

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  31. Tracy,I am so sorry to read this.It is a terrible way to run a hospital.I wish you had received the same type of care that my sister just had at University Hospital of UVA in Charlottesville,Va...she spent 5 days in ICU after having had a cancerous kidney removed,her surgery went well but had a pretty bad flare up of her COPD.My younger sister and I both spent many hours in the unit with her and everything was top notch from beginning to end,we had everything constantly being explained and while we were very scared at times we knew she was in the best place possible at the time.
    I pray that you will somehow get the Dr. and support from the medical community that you need to fight this battle. Sending healing prayers and hugs to both you and your Mom.

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  32. Hi Tracy:

    I didn't know you were going through this. My mother, father and I have been through this and more (different cases but similar - we have to talk). You are not the only one. My father is in heaven after not surviving cancer but the only thing I can say is trust God and not doctors, nurses or lawyers. I use to work defending Nurses in their union and I am so happy I don't do that anymore because they don't do their jobs like they used to. Even if they are suspended because when they do what they did to us they should be suspended but their union defends them. That's what really sucks. Racism and the caste system still exists as sad and inhumane as it may sound. I hope you documented everything because you will need it. It always depends on the insurance you have according to them too. We really have to talk.

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  33. @Everyone, thanks so much for your kindness, well wishes, prayers, emails, tweets and messages via facebook. I spent most of March and part of April at the second hospital and what I underwent there was pretty gruesome and quite painful. I'm just so happy be back home!

    @MargaritaV You can email directly from the contact us page on the top of my site, I would love to hear your persepctive!

    ♥ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

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