A Doctor’s God Complex, a Life Nearly Lost
Franny shares her experience with the almost-loss of her husband, brought about by the arrogance of a doctor.
My husband of almost 50 years, Asa, died last May of melanoma – metastasized to the brain. He had over 40 months of treatment prior to that, 13 months of which were one to two-weeks stays in a special biochemotherapy ICU unit in a hospital 400 miles from our home. I flew down with him and stayed in his room, acting as his patient advocate. I learned a LOT about patient advocacy during those 3+ years.
During one stay, an arrogant doctor almost cost him his life. I don’t know how much you know about biochemotherapy, but the treatments are delivered through a central venous catheter (in his neck in Asa’s case), which remains for the length of the ICU stay. A variety of chemo and biological medications, along with various “antidotes” to their toxic effects are delivered through this catheter. The intent of this treatment is to deliver as many doses as the patient can take, short of dying. (My husband set a record during his tenure there.) The catheter must be meticulously handled to prevent infection at the site, and flushed regularly to keep from clogging.
During one stay at about the 4th day into treatment, the catheter site started bleeding. All efforts of the attending RN failed and the on-call cardiac resident was called.
Enter Dr. Arrogant:
He immediately started bombarding the nurse with questions: Was the blood running down his neck? Did you apply pressure? How long did you apply pressure? Did you do this, did you do that? He then turned to me and demanded that I confirm her answers. THEN, he drew himself up pompously and proclaimed that since the nurse was obviously too busy to handle her duties, he was going to have the patient apply pressure to the neck. He showed my husband where to press and told him to hold it there for at least 10 minutes. He then flounced out of the room, followed by the nurse.
A few minutes later, I saw my husband’s eyes roll back in his head then his head rolled to the side, unconscious. Pandemonium followed. A code blue was called, a crash cart was rushed into the room, and after several minutes of near-hysteria on my part, Asa was revived.
I reported this doctor to the head of the biochemotherapy program. The two of them smiled and looked at each other. Apparently Dr. A. had quite a reputation for his God Complex. Dr. G offered a carefully worded suggestion that *I* report Dr. A to his superiors. My only regret is that I didn’t follow through on it.
During this long experience, I had occasion to report one or two of the attending RNs also. I chose my battles carefully, but did what I had to do. One of the confrontations occurred when my husband told me he had “dreamed” of killing me and himself, and right then was envisioning bashing his head against the sharp metal bolt on the top of the leg of his bed. He wanted to be restrained, but it was shift change, and the nurse said he was just imagining things. Long story, which I’ll spare you.
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