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Faith restored




May 8, 2017

All last weekend, I was in the company of some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know.  The Lown Annual conference corrals some of the brightest and best activists,  advocates and scholars in healthcare. This year it was in Quincy, MA.  We learned, laughed,  cried, and we networked.  It was absolutely amazing.  I have faith, in all of them, and in our determination that compassionate and excellent healthcare will thrive and improve, even with the existing odds.

Then this……

My team mate, friend, confidante and colleague, Poppy Arford took a nasty tumble while jogging alone early in the morning.  She stepped into a pothole and her left leg was bent at an unnatural angle and she twisted and fell on her left shoulder, and bumped her head.  She was in the middle of the road and couldn’t get up, so a wonderful Uber driver stopped, picked her up from the ground,  and drove her up the hill to our hotel.   At 62, Poppy is in excellent physical condition because she loves exercise and the great outdoors.  She can move like a teen and bend herself into pretzel like forms.   But, she has grown to distrust the healthcare system in general because of things that have happened to her family and her in the past.  She was literally petrified of going to the ER.  She was away from home,without her family, she didn’t know the area providers, and her fear was compounded by all of that.   She couldn’t walk and she was in terrific pain, but she did not want to go to the hospital.  She was in a roomful of doctors and friends, but they couldn’t convince her. Right there in that room with the kindest people in the world is where I found my friend Sunday morning, in a wheelchair, with her arm in a sling, and her leg propped up on very nice hotel pillows.  Ice had been applied and gentle kind people had brought her some scrambled eggs.

Our mutual Maine friend  Kim H, met me in the lobby outside the conference room to tell me that Poppy had been injured.  I had no idea.  I asked why she hadn’t gone to the ER. She said that a roomful of doctors couldn’t convince her to go.  I basically said, she is going.   I shifted into my mean and controlling nurse self.  I can do it…I really can, when the situation calls for it and when I know it is for the benefit of my friend.  Warning, watch out when I switch into this mode.

Poppy told me that when I said “We are going to the ER” she was able to move past the fear as she knew, she trusted, that I would be her “right care“ advocate at the hospital. Yet she still refused an ambulance. That was  a very good decision, because they probably would not have taken us to the hospital that was recommended to us. Sometimes by policy, they have to go to the closest facility.  We were advised by Boston doctors at the conference to go to Brigham and Womens Hospital. Dr. Andy L, Poppy’s friend from one of the organization’s councils gently supported and guided Poppy’s painful leg (there was no leg support on her hotel wheelchair) while we slowly and very carefully wheeled her to our volunteer drivers car.  We packed her and fluffed her up in the back seat of the car.   A contingent of conference attendees and friends came to wish her well, and a hotel employee swung into action to help  Kim gather her bags and other things. Some of us exchanged phone numbers and advice and information….all for our friend Poppy.   Dr Marlene H drove us to the hospital in Boston.  Because I have found humor to be a great salve for stress, we had some pretty silly conversations on the way into the hospital…I hope we didn’t scare our new friend Marlene.

Just before we left, the Right Care Alliance introduced,  from the stage of the conference,  the names of the members of their new steering committee.  Poppy is honored to be on that committee and she spoke into her microphone and told the whole room who she was, and that she had hurt herself badly that morning.  Her voice was shaky and she admitted her crippling fear of being harmed when she went to the ER. She said it shouldn’t be that way.  She is a very wise woman.  I promised I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her.

On arrival at the hospital, I asked the security guard for help.  They gently helped us get Poppy into a wheelchair.  Then a very patient admissions clerk took her information.  We wheeled right into nurse Triage after that and then she was immediately taken to an exam room.  There were no waits and Poppy got compassionate care from the door to her exam bed.  We were assigned a sweet nurse named Christina, and an ER tech named Justin.  She was gently examined by 2 medical residents, the ER attending and an orthopedic resident.  These young doctors treated her with the greatest patience, respect and compassion.  They gave her every bit of information she needed and eased her fears. They fluffed her pillows up and comforted her,  gave her necessary information and  helped her with her needs. We laughed together  and we all learned about each other.  But most importantly they eased her fears and pain,  and they cared for my friend.  She had great care in that ER and both of us were so incredibly relieved.

After she had x rays, we found out that Poppy broke  her rt collarbone and her left lower leg (tibial plateau).  She was given a painful  injection of Lidocaine below her knee so the resident could do a thorough exam of her fracture, and determine if it was stable or not.  He felt that it was stable. When I left her yesterday, she was planning to go home.  The attending orthopedist had a different opinion.  He recognized the importance of Poppys active lifestyle.  He told her that if she wanted to continue to be this active and not develop arthritis, it would be best to fortify the bone with a plate and screws.  These devices can stay in or she can opt to have them removed down the road.   He said that surgery would be her best option.  Poppy agreed to have the surgery.

I left Poppy yesterday afternoon in the competent hands of the B&W ER staff and her beautiful daughter Libby. Husband Loren was on his way.  When he arrived in Boston in the B & W ER, and learned the plan, he drove back to Maine to prepare a downstairs bed for Poppy. Later when he learned that she will spend some weeks in a wheelchair, he and a couple of friends built her a ramp.   When I spoke with her this morning, she told me she has very little pain, and she was very pleased with her night nurse.  She is awaiting the surgical stabilization of her fracture.  She is confident, comfortable and she has a great attitude.  My friend is very courageous.

Late this afternoon, I got a message from Loren that Poppy was out of surgery and all went well.  What wonderful relief. She has a struggle ahead, but I am very confident that she will work hard and have a full recovery.  The human body is an amazing vessel and Poppy has taken excellent care of hers.

Poppy and I have teamed up on a number of presentations and campaigns.  Our friends at the Right Care alliance have affectionately named us the Lucy and Ethel of the RCA.  What an adventure L and R had yesterday.   And, next year at the Lown, what a story we will have to tell, to teach others how to be safe and engaged patients.   I have bold printed the people who helped Poppy just in one day, and there are many more now.  It’s amazing how a large group of  mostly unacquainted caring people pulled together to help my  friend Poppy.  We can never underestimate the goodness of people in times of need.

My opinion is that we found some of the finest in healthcare at the B & W ER  and a great example for the work we are doing.  However, we both went to the weekend conference expecting to help reform the heathcare system, not to experience it!

Addendum.  Poppy never stops working, and when we were in the ER she and I may have even managed to recruit the ER attending and the ER RN to the Right Care Alliance.  I left my card.

To be continued…….

May 10, 2017

Poppy was discharged from Brigham Women’s this afternoon in a wheel chair. Once her clavicle has healed sufficiently, she will begin using crutches to walk with no weight bearing on her injured leg for ten weeks. This will be a struggle, but if anybody can beat this, it is Poppy.  She is grateful to everyone along the way who helped and cared about her.





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