emergency

In September I tripped at a camp out and ruptured my spleen. True story. In my defense, it was dark and drizzling out and I was carrying a piece of pie in each hand, one for my daughter and one for her friend. We were getting close to our tent and I tripped on someone else’s tent tether. I immediately realized I had lost my footing but assumed I would regain it and so I tried to save the pie. In so doing, I did not use my hands to break the fall and landed squarely on my left rib cage causing two severe lacerations and rupturing my spleen. 

I spent nine of the next ten days in the hospital, the first four in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  After one day at home and what turned out to be a premature release from the hospital, I took an ambulance back and spent five more days in the hospital. These are the lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: Spleens are good to have.  Growing up I always heard that you didn’t “need” your spleen.  Consequently, all ruptured spleens were treated by removing the spleen. Today, the standard of care has completely changed. Doctors try and save the spleen and only perform surgery in extreme cases where the patient’s vital signs do not stabilize. Thankfully, I still have my spleen.

Lesson 2: Sometimes expensive medical tests are good. Over the years, I have become jaded reading about unnecessary and expensive medical tests. When the Physician’s Assistant (PA) in the Emergency Room recommended a blood test, a CAT scan and a traditional X-ray I assumed it was part of a plot to increase revenue for the hospital.  In fact, the CAT scan was necessary for the appropriate diagnosis which was a ruptured spleen. 

Lesson 3: You work with Millennials whether you like it or not.  I fully expected to be playing “do you know?” with the doctors that visited me in the hospital. Imagine my surprise when it was my business partner, who is half my age, who was connecting with the residents and interns that stopped by. In the business world there is much teeth-gnashing about how to work with Millennials.  In the hospital you have no choice.  The young doctors are very easy to work with and they show up early and stay late and have no expectations of working remotely. And as a bonus, they are not burdened with the old beliefs (see Lesson 1) and have the benefit of newer technologies (see Lesson 2).

Lesson 4: Prepare like you would for a business meeting.  You can be your own advocate in the hospital. I spent hours a day researching on the internet to try and understand my condition, treatments and possible outcomes. The hospital used scrub colors to differentiate the tiers of nurses, PA’s and doctors but the colors were meaningless to me. I knew I needed to better understand the doctor hierarchy so I could understand who was ultimately making the decisions about my care.  I texted my cousin who is a doctor and got a crash course on hospital hierarchy. (Hint: the Attending is in charge.) Armed with a better understanding of ruptured spleens and the hierarchy I was able to have a more productive conversation with the Attending about my care.

Lesson 5: Next time don’t worry about the pie. Enough said.

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