Murphy’s Law, Hospitals and Healing

Not an optimist, Murphy said, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
We often laugh ironically in my family that whenever Murphy’s Law strikes, it hits Murphys tenfold. But the reality is not so funny.
My daughter Katie was hospitalized last November for eight days with stomach ulcers. She’s only 24. We were shocked to find out her diagnosis. She seems way too young for anything remotely close to ulcers…. But after her discharge, followed by rest, more doctor visits, medication adjustments, and even more tests, it seemed as if things were under control.
Until two weeks ago….
Katie woke up that Monday with the terrible, yet familiar ulcer-related pain. A visit to her GI doctor was followed by two days of not being able to keep anything down, and a trip to the Emergency Room at Upper Chesapeake. Tests and more tests, tubes, IVs, and blood samples were followed three days later by a late-night transfer to University of MD Medical Center. The doctors wanted to get a better grasp on what was causing the pain and what could be done about it. The worry was palpable. One’s imagination can work overtime when you are frightened for the well-being of your family.
What have we learned?
1. Make new priorities:
Your priorities change immediately when a serious illness strikes.
Katie returned to school full time last year to study dental hygiene after working for two family practices. “School comes first” quickly changed to “health comes first.” Finals and semester-end clinicals can be taken or finished up all in good time. This is exactly why “Incomplete” is part of academic grading options.
2. Hurry up and wait:
From the Emergency Room to the final release papers, patience is the necessary virtue as you aren’t going anywhere fast. Though it might be frustrating to not hear a more definitive time for the return of test results or the next visit of the doctor to the hospital room, waiting becomes a necessary part of the process. Napping for the patient and reading or online-working for the family makes the time pass.
3. No one gets any rest in a hospital:
Nurses and techs come in around the clock to check vitals, take blood, and administer meds. Katie was placed in a room at the first hospital with an elderly woman with impaired hearing. This meant that her visiting family members had to speak loudly while Katie was feeling so poorly. Sleep was elusive until we got to a private room three days later at University of Maryland Medical Center. And even then it was a challenge as we were two floors below the Shock Trauma helipad. One could never complain though as these amazing men and women at University were saving lives around the clock.
 I took this photo out the fifth floor window in Weinberg as the Shock Trauma transport hovered for landing.
4. Nurses are saints:
The fine women and men who serve the injured and infirm at our hospitals are on the fast track to heaven, I am sure. The nurses who took care of Katie were smart, efficient, kind, and had a sweet sense of humor. I admire them so much as I could never do what they do every day. They even brought me pillows, blankets, and towels each evening and coffee every morning.
God bless them.
5. So Much Information…
If you have something more complicated than a simple broken bone you could be overwhelmed by the amount of information that is given by the all the folks who stop by for a consultation or procedure. Having assisted with hospitalizations for family and friends over past years, I have found it most important to do the following:
a. Keep a notebook or pad and pen at hand to record all input at a moment’s notice.
b. Record the date, time, and names of all those to whom you speak. It helps later when the names and who-said-what become a blur.
c. Take careful notes. Doctors might say eight things in three minutes. If you don’t write it down before they leave the room, you might only remember three of those things an hour later.
d. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to request that something be repeated or clarified. If a diagnosis or symptom has a technical name, don’t be shy about asking for its spelling so you can look it up later. Get doctor and staff names and contact information, if needed for follow-up. (Some people keep their own medical binder and ask for copies of all lab reports, signed release forms, and hospital records. My husband started doing this for us a few years back and it is very helpful to have paperwork for future reference.)
e. Express gratitude to those staffers who are helpful and kind. The long hours and demands of the medical field make for frequent stress and easy burnout. We can help by expressing our heartfelt thanks.
6. Prayers Work: Amen.
Katie and I both posted requests for prayers on Facebook and in return received so much love, support, and the assurance of prayers for Katie’s quick recovery.  Father Bill Spacek, Catholic chaplain at UMMC, stopped in and anointed Katie on Monday. This was very comforting to all of us. Praise God.
5. A Hospital Robot!
The advances in medical technology and efficiency are mind-boggling.
Last Monday my husband and I left a visitors lounge and were almost run down by a large robotic utility cart on wheels. It was actually a secure pharmacy container delivering medications to all the wings of the hospital. It buzzed down the hall past us, turned the corner, and stopped in front of the nursing station. We then heard the robot say, “Your chain of custody has arrived.” We were amazed. 
We learned that this “TUG” is programmed to go to each hospital wing unassisted, to ride the elevator, trigger doors to open and close, and to leave if the medication is not removed within a specific amount of minutes. It speaks to alert nurses of the delivery and for walkers to move out of the way. Access is provided by authorized personnel with PIN numbers and sometimes by fingerprint scans. How cool is that?
I later spoke to Bill Seiler, the Asst. Director of Media Relations at UMMC, who shared several interesting articles and some follow-up info. University of Maryland Medical Center was the first hospital in the world to use a Aethon TUG for medication deliveries to Shock Trauma back in 2002.
This first robot was named “Mr. Gower” for the pharmacist in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Shock Trauma later added another TUG named “Florence” for Florence Nightingale. Other TUGs in use include “Edgar” for Edgar Allen Poe, “Clara” for Clara Barton, and “Tony” in memory of a longtime UMMC pharmacist.
Today there are eight high-tech TUGs moving through the hallways and elevators at University ensuring greater efficiency and secure delivery. Saving lives thus remains the number one priority through these time-saving technologies.
For more information click here.
Here’s a front (gray) and back (white) view of a TUG at University of MD Medical Center.
In conclusion, all parents worry about their children no matter what their ages. Only the issues differ over time, not the concern. For me, it is always critical that I keep in mind that God is indeed in the clouds, guiding and caring for us when life throws us another curveball. With His grace and mercy, we can stay optimistic, disregarding Murphy’s Law since anything that can go wrong can be handled with faith and prayer.
God is good: All the time!!

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.