Hospitals, Computers and Drugs (Part I)


Yesterday my physician and I decided to change my drug schedule. At 10:00 p.m., instead of getting 7.5 mg. of the short-acting oxycodone, I would get a 10 mg. long-acting dose and then the 2:00 a.m. short-acting oxycodone would be discontinued.

The 10:00 p.m. medication that was given was one pill, not one and a half, and larger than usual, so I guessed it was the new dose. The nurse did not tell me. Nursing and I are having a few problems and some of the nurses react by being abrupt and non-communicative. Not good nursing behavior.

Then, at 2:00 a.m., another nurse tried to wake me for medicine. Believing that I should not have any, I resisted. She repeatedly grabbed my arm and shook me, and told me the medicine would be “wasted” unless I took it—a horrible justification for forcing medicine on a patient.

At 5:00 a.m., the charge nurse told me that the computer had generated “two sheets” and that one said yes to 2:00 a.m. medicine and the other said no. I went with what the physician said; the nurse went with the computer and would have overdosed me if I hadn’t resisted.

The last time the physician changed the drugging dose, I woke up at 9:15 a.m., expecting to have two clear functioning hours before my next medication at 11:00 a.m. Instead, the nurse came in and tried to give it to me at 9:15. She was insistent and I was resistant; I had just awakened and she was going to put me back to sleep.

Upon investigation, it turned out that the physician had been prescribing the oxycodone at 7:00, 11:00 and 3:00, which is every four hours. When he changed the dosage, he wrote it as “every four hours,” which the computer converted to the hospital’s usual “Q4” dosing schedule of 6:00, 10:00 and 2:00, hence my narcotic dose was moved forward an hour to 10:00 a.m.

Then the nurse moved it forward another hour. Some nurses do that; they start an hour ahead of schedule to administer drugs. I don’t think that’s a good idea when you’re administering narcotics. So my oxycodone got moved from 11:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. because of the computer and the nurse, never mind the physician and the patient.

Late last night I had a conversation with a nursing supervisor and learned that Crouse Hospital is keeping a dossier of all the things I do that they don’t like. They haven’t told me about it, which is to say that at the time of discord, e.g., three hospitalizations ago, nobody from the hospital came to me and asked what happened. They listened to one side of the story and then entered it in my permanent record. That’s sneaky, and a violation of my trust, not to mention my attempts to deal straightforwardly with Crouse.

The nursing supervisor says there are two issues involving roommates’ privacy; she only had some distant involvement in one of them. I’ve been working on my memory to pull up what happened.

In one case, my roommate was a middle-aged woman who’d had back surgery. The day after, she was talking on the phone to her husband, laughing and telling him how good she felt. Then the surgeon and his entourage arrived and she told them an entirely different story. She said she was in a great deal of pain and needed medication. I was shocked, naive little dumb-dumb that I am.

The physician was saying things like, “The site of the surgery isn’t red, so I don’t know why you’d be in such pain.” They went back and forth, with the patient trying harder to get drugs and the physician gradually giving in to her. What would you have done? Nothing or something? What kind of something?

I’ve spent the last five months shuttling back and forth between Crouse Hospital and Iroquois Nursing Home. I probably have been exposed to close to a thousand patients and staff. Now, I would keep my mouth shut; then, I attracted the attention of a member of the entourage and, in a few words, tried to let her know the patient was playing the physician.

Shortly thereafter, the patient was moved out of my room. I shrugged philosophically and said to myself, “I guess I made the wrong decision.” Nobody from the hospital ever talked to me about it. Nobody ever knew that the patient had told her husband that she was doing great; no need for pain medication. Except that, by the way, she complained a lot about her marriage, her home environment, and her general dissatisfaction with how her life was going. (To be continued.)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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5 Responses to Hospitals, Computers and Drugs (Part I)

  1. Do you currently believe that you have bipolar, type II? Your “about me” page says that you are cursed with bipolar genes. (“The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II.”) Do you still believe that?

    • annecwoodlen says:

      No, I do not. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a quarter of a century of taking antidepressants. When I stopped taking antidepressants, the symptoms all stopped. I now believe that my bipolar symptoms and diagnosis were the result of prolonged use of antidepressants.

      I currently am open-minded as to whether there is such a thing as bipolar disorder, type II, or any other type. Dr. Peter Breggin likens it to the crowd following a football game. If your team won then you’re manic; if your team lost then you’re depressed.

      Since I live three blocks from Carrier Dome and watch tens of thousands of Syracuse University fans flooding down the hill after a game, this is a pretty vivid image to me. I do not have bipolar disorder; I can’t speak for anyone else.

  2. dee says:

    They were prob giving her something to help w the detox which can be very painful. Very standard and humane.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      You entirely missed the point of the story.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      One of the things I learned from that experience is that physicians know exactly how long it takes to detox from different substances. It is not a guessing game; it is established information. Roomie was past the detox phase. I am guessing that most of what you know about detoxing comes from television shows. “Very standard and humane” is not a statement that would be made by any knowledgeable person; it would be made by someone who speaks from the heart without consulting the brain. A physician returning from a Harvard conference on herbs told me that ginger is the best thing for drug withdrawal and proceeded to use it with great success in the psychiatric emergency room.

      The story was about what happens to people–such as me–who interfere with hospitals pushing drugs. The story was about a nurse siding with a drug addict. The story was about a society whose members prefer drugs to lifestyle changes.

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