Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Don't Touch That. Not Yours.

Recently I met a guy who thought we were doing everything wrong for his poor comatose grandma. He made a point of telling me that at least once an hour. He also hovered over my shoulder every time I was in the room, making a big show of double checking every little thing I touched-- the oxygen rate, the IV pump, the level of suction on her NG tube, the degrees of elevation of the head of her bed, everything.

That's all fine. I don't mind another set of eyes. Even though I'm a nurse and you're an unemployed waiter who knows only what you read on WebMD, you still might notice something I did not. Stranger things have happened. So I wasn't bothered that this dude followed behind me to double check the equipment.

What did bother me was how he went about checking grandma's abdominal wound.

I walked into the room at midnight to find that the guy had unwrapped her abdominal binder, disconnected her wound vac, taken down all three layers of the dressing, and was peeling up a corner of the Gore-Tex mesh beneath. Never mind that the mesh was stitched in place and not supposed to move. More worrying was that the mesh was standing in for the inner membrane of grandma's peritoneal cavity, which means genius was poking her internal organs with his unwashed and ungloved hands. (The technical medical term for this is "Yikes.")

I'm rather proud of how calmly I told him to stop.

Dude's response was to say I should "chill out," because he had "the legal right to check out her healing without all that useless stuff in the way." He further claimed that if I put the dressing back, he would only take it apart again as soon as I left, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.

I chose not to argue.

I just pushed a button on the wall. A pair of burly security officers showed up within about thirty seconds, and I let them do the arguing. When last I saw our friend, he was being politely but quite firmly escorted from the premises. He won't be back.

Getting the dressing rebuilt properly took over an hour of combined work for me, the surgery resident, and the wound care nurse. Fortunately none of the sutures were disturbed, and it appears that the patient won't be suffering any further complications because of this.

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