You Need An Advocate: What I Learned During A Family Emergency

As some of you know from my Twitter feed, my wife and I rushed my father-in-law to the ER yesterday afternoon. He and my mother-in-law, who live out of town, are here in Memphis for the holidays. Thank you for praying for my father-in-law. His emergency surgery last night to drain the blood around his heart went well. It was really touch and go. At one point, the doctor looked at me and told me he was concerned if my father-in-law could make it long enough for the surgeon to arrive.

He did and the surgery went well. They drained the blood from around his heart, and we are now waiting on the cardiologist to see why this happened and if it is still happening. He has a tube in to drain any new blood. Please keep praying for him.

I will do my best to keep you, our friends, up to date.

Melissa spent all night with her dad in the ICU, and I brought her mother back to our home to get some rest. Melissa’s two sisters, brother-in-law and a niece and nephew arrived at 6am from northern Illinois after traveling all night.

One very important thing I learned yesterday that is crucial to remember is that when a family member is in the hospital, you never leave them alone. A family member must always be present, acting as their advocate. Without going into details, I can tell you that if Melissa and I had not taken on this role, things could have turned out very differently. I refused to leave the room or his side, except when he was getting a CT. While Melissa cared for her mother, I was making sure her father was getting the best care in a timely manner. I can tell you, the system will rob your loved one of fast and vital care, and often times, is not on the side of the patient. You must keep things moving as the advocate for your family member.

At one point I physically went and got the doctor and brought him back to the room where my father-in-law was about to crash. The nurses did not respond to my request to get the doctor back when I knew something was happening, even before the equipment showed what was about to happen. My father-in-law felt it coming on and told me so. So when the nurse delayed in getting the doctor per my request, I left the room and went and got the doctor.

Once the doctor got back in the room, he started ordering nurses to do certain things. The captain needs to stay on the bridge and if he leaves to go to another patient in the ER, you need to not be timid to go get him. It was at this point things turned really bad and we almost lost my father-in-law several times. I can tell you at that point we had everyone's attention. They all knew this family was engaged. We definitely had the respect of the nurses and doctor because they saw how we treated my father-in-law and how we were engaging with each other, as well as with them.

We had one nurse that really bonded with us during this and she was really working on our behalf when we would ask for certain things to be hurried up. Her shift ended and we got a new nurse, but we worked to establish that rapport with her. I cannot stress enough the need to do this. Several times we pushed for things to move faster and we asked lots of questions. We found out what was next and at what time that would happen. When that time passed, we went to the nurses station to tell them we wanted the tech in the room to get the blood work for the next scheduled test. We just stayed on it. Sorry to say the system is breaking down due to overload and a government run health system.

Many of these professionals are doing the best they can. We saw people in the ER that should NOT have been there. People with minor things were taking the time and attention of our doctor. That is why we stayed engaged and got him back when we needed him without waiting "our turn.”

When the government pays for people to go to the ER, they show up for colds. I saw it first hand. Those of us that work like dogs and pay our own insurance and huge premiums show up only when it is vital, or life and death. So do not let the state run health care system make your loved one a victim. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. We were respectful, but firm in our demands. As customers, we were simply exercising our right to quality, timely and immediate attention of our relative. You must do this as an advocate for your family member. Also, do not be intimidated that you are not a doctor or nurse. Ask questions and do not be satisfied with non-answers. Engage them as to the current course of action and what is next, and then hold them to that schedule and course in a timely manner. Don't let your loved one get slowed down by the overload in the ER…. that could be fatal. Again, we can tell you that our pushing them got faster results. My father-in-law needed emergency surgery, and the longer it went, the worse it was going because his heart could only take so much blood pushing against it, stopping it from expanding and functioning.

Even the doctors we were requesting by name caught the attention of the staff because they knew we were informed and were requesting the best of the best. They even told us we were choosing the best doctors.

Please pray for Melissa and her mother. They are doing great. It has been amazing to see the grace God has given them. I would never have thought they would hold up so strong. It can only be God's grace.

We are so thankful they were here in Memphis when this happened. Due to the fact they were with us, we were able to quickly respond in getting him to the ER, and then requesting the top cardiologist in town, as well as being his advocate. Melissa said this morning she is convinced if he had been at home in Illinois, this would have turned out differently for many reasons.

So we are thankful for God's providence that brought them here. They had originally cancelled their trip here over my mother-in-law’s health, but then they changed their mind and said they were going to be with us on Christmas. That shocked the entire family. Now I think we know why God had them here.

Sorry this is longer than I intended, but I really got a crash course yesterday through my eye-witness experience of the broken system of healthcare. Maybe this little article will help you understand the importance of arranging advocacy now within your family, before anything happens. A few years ago, I had a relative that was almost taken from the room and given dialysis. They had the wrong patient. A relative asked questions and stopped this from happening.

Talk to your family now and tell them what you expect from them if you are in the hospital. You have to agree to be each other's advocate. Pick the family member that is kind, but assertive, and not intimidated by anyone. It will make a huge difference for you or your family member.

I sent this update to a doctor friend of mine who works in the ER. He responded by email stating that what we experienced was the broken system, and that we were correct to be the strong advocate for our family member. When doctors that see the failure of the system tell you this is how you must respond as an advocate for your family member, then you better follow their advice.

Thank you again for praying. We will keep you posted. Melissa wanted me to thank you for the emails of support and the prayers.

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