Here’s Our Why.
“Please, call me Eddie”
Several years back, my dad had a heart attack while on a fishing trip with friends in Michigan. He was rushed to the local emergency department and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He needed immediate extensive heart surgery to save his life. I was relieved to find out, after some research, that the hospital had an excellent heart program and very good clinical outcomes.
I took the first flight to Michigan to be with him prior to his surgery. When I arrived, he was in good spirits and joking with the nurses and doctors, who called him, “Mr. Poore.” He gently corrected them by saying, “Please, just call me, Eddie.” They would always reply, “Okay, Eddie. And I’ll make sure everyone else knows that too.”
However, each new nurse or doctor would come in and again address him as “Mr. Poore.” My dad continued to reply, “Just call me, Eddie.”
But they never got it right.
After a while, he became frustrated and a little concerned about his care team’s ability (or inability) to communicate. When a nurse hung a new IV and added some drugs to it, I asked her what it was. She told me it was blood thinner that would help with his heart palpitations.
Each employee also told my dad that prior to surgery, he would need to take off his two gold necklaces. They even offered to take them off right then and send them to security for safe keeping. The necklaces had sentimental value to my father: one was from his mother and one from his deceased wife. He didn’t want them removed! One nurse agreed that the necklaces would be taped to one of his legs during the surgery so that he’d always have them on him. Unfortunately, this was never communicated to other medical-surgical staff.
Eddie Poore, Jake’s father
Every time someone new walked into his room, they would kindly suggest that he would have to “take off those gold necklaces.” Finally, my dad lost all patience.
I remember watching his vital signs spike on the monitor above his bed: his blood pressure would rise; his pulse would rise… clearly, there were clinical implications to this poor team communication.
To my dad, the two most important things to him were his good name and his gold necklaces?—?and this team couldn’t get either of these right.
Later, I helped escort my dad to surgery and as I was saying my goodbyes, a nurse said, “Hi, Mr. Poore (not “Eddie”), I’m the nurse anesthetist. Do you know what I’m going to do?” My father replied, “Put me to sleep, I guess.” And she continued, “Yep, that’s right. And I see you have some gold necklaces on, let’s….” While she was still speaking, my father turned back to me with a huge look of fear on his face and said, “Good lord, if they can’t even get these necklaces right, Jake!” That was pretty much the last thing he said on this earth.
(An important note: At 4am, I was in the surgical waiting room and I picked up a newspaper and read that President Clinton had been scheduled to have his heart surgery this same week, but his doctors wanted him to wait an extra few days until the blood thinner had left his body.)
After his surgery the surgeon didn’t even come out to talk to me (a bad sign). He sent one of the nurses out instead.