Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Adventures in Medical Malpractice

For those of you who have been following my "tweets" you'll have noticed a few panicky references to my Mom recently. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized breast cancer in November 2006. Remarkably, and with a blatant disregard for logic and convention, she's still alive and living a relatively normal life despite more broken ribs than a rugby player and tumors in most of her major organs.

I wish I could say her amazing situation is a credit to the medical profession but I can't. In fact, it seems the medical profession has made it their mission to bring her down. Her family doctor ignored her complaints about shortness of breath and other symptoms for over a year despite knowing she is a breast cancer survivor and anything but a complainer. When the misogynistic bastard finally did get around to testing her blood, it was too late to cure the advanced progression of the cancer which had spread to her bones, lungs, liver and pancreas.

I must admit she has been receiving wonderful care since then, both from her new local doctors and her oncologist and the nurses at Sunnybrook Hospital. However the tale of medical mistakes isn't over yet.

Just over a week ago, Mom was kitted out with a fancy new morphine pump which replaced some of her oral morphine medications. Sadly, whoever programmed the pump misinterpreted the dosage and the pump was administering about twice the morphine it was supposed to. My Mom is already taking enough morphine to kill the average person, so this overage sent her into a pretty dramatic and rapid downhill slide that ended up with her being admitted to hospital on Friday night completely unable to walk or even sit up on her own. She was vomiting almost continuously and practically incoherent--I know, I tried talking to her on the phone.

At this point we had no idea what the problem was, only that she was desperately ill and getting worse. She spent Saturday in an ambulance going to and from a larger hospital over an hour away for an MRI and CT scan that could possibly confirm our worst fear--that cord compression was finally taking place and this was the beginning of a very painful end to her struggle with cancer. Sunday she drifted in and out of consciousness most of the day while we anxiously waited for answers.

Finally, early Monday it was discovered that her morphine dose was way too high and they started scaling it back. Immediately she began to improve, even managing to walk the hospital hallway on her own and taking a shower for the first time in days. By the time I talked to her at 9pm she was tired but lucid and looking forward to what would hopefully be her first decent night's sleep in almost a week--the high levels of morphine had turned her dreams into terrifying nightmares.

We still don't know who's responsible for the error in the dosage--we'll likely never know. We're also still waiting to hear the results of the CT scan, but my whole family is relieved beyond measure that she's steadily improving and seemingly back on track to keeping her status as a bona fide miracle.


Mindy said...

Good to know we're in such capable medical hands... god love the physician.... we all know s/he loves her/himself

psychsarah said...

Glad that your Mom is on the mend. It never ceases to amaze me the number of fuck-ups there are in hospitals.