Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within

Don’t $@&* With Me Fella’s…..It’s Not My First Time at the Rodeo

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This is a letter that I emailed to the CEO of Jackson Memorial Hospital on the last night of my stay there. I actually got a response from him.

Dear Mr. Migoya,

I have been a  patient in your hospital for the past 78 days. I had my trauma in New Orleans and flew here right after my emergency spine surgery there. I fractured C6 and C7 and am a partial quadriplegic right now. I am here at JHS by choice not by necessity. I had the means to go anywhere in the country but I chose this  hospital specifically to be under the care of Dr. Green.
I received a piece of paper that was a JHS adult patient satisfaction discharge interview survey for the rehab center. I am going to fill that out but I also wanted to take the time to give you feedback of my entire JHS experience. I believe feedback,   be it positive or negative only makes people and companies better.
I have only accolades for Dr. Green and his extremely professional and talented team, including Shelley Garcia, Dr. Mario Olavarria  and Green’s  residents. They are above excellent.
My stay here started in your ICU.  I was there for about 10 days, and I have to tell you the staff there is excellent. The nurses and the patient care techs (PCT) are commendable including nurses Cathy and Chris and PCT’s Ocean and Janet. There were many more that need to be commended but unfortunately I cannot recall their names… they were all wonderful. I felt as though each and every one of them were my advocates and they had a naturally holistic view of mind, body and spirit for a patient’s recovery. It was not just purely medicine, but the empathy that they demonstrated, whether it be an MD, RN or PCT. I went through a very traumatic experience resulting in a very serious injury, and dealing with the loss of most of my motor function was not easy. They all really got it, and were there by my side when I needed them medically and emotionally and at the highest professional level. Unfortunately, I cannot say that for the other units of the hospital that I spent time at and the other medical professionals that I came in contact with. The disparity of care and professionalism stuck out like a sore thumb. My fiancé has been a physician for many years. He is an attending at our hospital and also runs a very busy practice with three locations. I am well aware that just because it’s medicine doesn’t mean that everyone that practices it and works in it is excellent. There are high performers and not so high performers in every job, including healthcare.  I am well aware that people in medicine are not superheroes and that I should not look at my stay here through rose colored glasses. But I do expect to have a better level of service quality that I’ve had in some areas that I stayed. For the last 11 weeks I have stared at a board on my wall that I am assuming states the JHS Mission statement: “Our goal is to provide you with excellent care”.  Based on that statement I would like to give you my feedback that is at times much less than excellent care.
Enter West Wing 7, my interim stay out of ICU and into my much anticipated rehabilitation. I was well aware of the patient to nurse ratio as compared to ICU, and that reaction time would not be as quick when I needed someone, but I did not anticipate being ignored completely. I am here from out of town and thankfully, I had a large friend and family network that took turns flying to Miami to stay with me and help me out at the hospital. I would assume that many people do not have that luxury. I probably would not had have made it through this hospital and this traumatic experience without the support of the people around me.
When I was brought into West Wing seven, my first impression was how nice the room was (I had a private room) and how professional and detail oriented the first nurse that I came in contact with was. I believe her name was Caroline. Unfortunately, I did not see her after that, but she was great, kind, organized and efficient. The PCT’s that I had were excellent as well. I had a good feeling about the way things were going to go, but it went downhill from there. There were many excellent nurses there, but a few not so great ones upset my apple cart. There was more than one occasion that I needed a nurse but was not able to get one. I was not pressing the call button like I was ordering room service at a hotel, I truly needed someone’s help. At one point, I was left in the pink chair for too long.  This is the chair used to sit someone upright for the first time when they have been laying down for a very long time. I rang the bell several times because I absolutely needed to get out of the chair and back into bed. My spine surgery was still very new and I was experiencing substantial pain and some dizziness for being up too long. The secretary at the nurses desk that is in charge of answering the patient calls kept telling me someone would be there. I think at one point she just stopped answering my calls. Finally, probably 45 minutes later I was transferred into bed and given pain meds and finally relieved. Another time, I was laying in bed in severe pain, and rang the bell to ask for a nurse and pain meds. After about an hour of no nurse in sight, my friend just happened to pay a visit to me. At that point I was crying from the pain and he ran to the nurses desk to get help for me. He actually had to go a couple times and they finally came. This is absolutely unacceptable.
On another occasion, I needed to use the hospital notary for some documents that needed to be sent out ASAP. My friend Kim was  with me at the time while I was in West Wing seven, and went to the same desk and talked to the same person that answers the phone for the patient calls. Kim received absolutely no help from this person and she was actually quite rude. She tried to tell Kim that there is no notary available. It was as if she really didn’t want to do anything at all for us. Someone finally helped us and we were able to get the notary that
was on staff that evening. There were numerous occasions, I needed a nurse, and could not get one. The lady that delivers the food trays every day actually helped us more than some of the nurses there and told us at that at many times  all they’re doing is standing around chatting and texting on their phones. Kim slept in the room with me in West Wing seven every night because she was afraid to leave me alone for fear I was not going to get the help and care that I needed. There’re some really great nurses in that unit but some really lazy ones as well and who do not know the concept of good customer service. We made an official complaint so it should be documented with someone somewhere in this hospital.
The food here is atrocious. I realize that hospitals are particularly known for bad food, but this food is inedible. The menu every day that is sent to my room states “chefs specials”. I would like to meet the chef to give them my review, if there even is a chef. I could not eat the food here. It did not help with my recovery. My friends, family and fiancé spent thousands of dollars to bring groceries into me so I could have good food that would help me feel stronger mentally and physically. I grew up in the restaurant business and currently work as a marketing manager at food manufacturing company. I work closely with our R&D department as well. We work with many healthcare facilities and wellness campuses, and I know firsthand it does not cost a lot of money to make healthy, good tasting food. This is all part of the mind, body, spirit recovery that I was speaking about in the beginning. You need to have a tray delivered to your office every once in a while to really taste what’s going on. You wouldn’t be happy.
I only spent about five days in West Wing seven when I was finally transferred to the rehab building and into my private room. I was actually on the pediatric side of the rehab, but there were really no kids here mostly adults. I was shocked as to how antiquated this side of the building was, but I wasn’t here for luxury accommodations… only to work hard in rehab. The hospital, though, might want to consider putting some money into this end of the hospital. This rehab building really needs to be ADA compliant, since most people are in wheelchairs on this side… Just a thought. I quickly discovered that the nurses and PCTs were excellent in the rehab side and it more than made up for the dilapidated conditions over here. Nancy Castillo is blessed with a great staff. Your staff is only as good as the person that manages them, and Nancy is a prime example. They had the same high standards of care and emotional support as the staff in ICU and understood the intense emotional pain that many of us were going through. Hope was always their prescription. I got to know all of them and as I leave here, consider many of them to be my friends. Nancy, the rehab nurses and the regular rehab techs went above and beyond for me. I would like to acknowledge each and every one of them because they are wonderful:
Nancy Castillo-she is so wonderful! She genuinely cares for the people in her unit. Nancy visited me every day to make sure that things were okay for me. She even brought me Starbucks! Nancy also assured me that I would not go home unprepared…and kept her promise. She is a true professional. More healthcare organizations need people like Nancy.
Christy-such a lovely and caring person who would never let me give up. She is also superb at what she does and works more hours than most. Such a hard worker and never tired. She has a very kind soul. I asked if she would adopt a 43-year-old woman like me. I wanted to take her home with me!
Eddy-he’s always there to help and with a smile on his face. He is often shorthanded, does the work of 2 people and every day turns lemons into lemonade. Marie-quick on her toes and always willing to go the extra mile. Jackie- not a veteran but if you didn’t know it you would think she had been doing this for many years. She’s extremely intelligent, caring, professional and maintains great customer service (something lacking throughout most healthcare today). Melanie-she’s still green but is very caring and sweet. She has the foundation to make a wonderful nurse. Cynthia – I have known her the entire time I was in rehab but did not have the pleasure of having her on our side too many times. She is a new nurse who is excellent.  Miss Francis-my angel in the night. She is sweet, kind and with a good sense of humor. She is there almost every night from 11 PM to 7 AM. When she’s not there, I miss her greatly. She is a very lovely person, and is a seasoned veteran. Barbara-such a wonderful and easy-going PCT. nothing gets under her skin. She is always calm and very professional, but also very personable. She is excellent at what she does. I believe she’s going to nursing school also. She will make an even better nurse. Roscio-a sweet PCT who always has a smile on her face. She knows how to treat and safely handle patients like us and will do anything to make the patient happy. Sylvie-another angel in the night. She is excellent in her job. When she was not there I noticed. She made my coffee every morning before her shift ended and got me my hot towel… Little luxuries for me that helped to start off my day. She went above and beyond. Victoria – it is difficult to put into words how wonderful this
PCT is. She is dedicated beyond belief. I looked forward to the times that Victoria worked. She pampered me. Victoria did many things for me above and beyond her job description. One day I came back from therapy and all of the cards I’ve received over my stay here were hanging beautifully on my wall. What a sweet thing to do for me. She counseled me many times when I was down and told me that I should never give up. She also told me many success stories of people with the same injury as me (or even worse) that are walking today. Victoria is not only great at what she does but also gives hope to many that need it. Hope is a key piece in recovery. I am glad to have met her and this hospital is very lucky to have her.
The first 4-5 weeks in the rehab unit went very well, until I noticed a lot of shuffling of staff in and out. This is when things did not go so well for me. The rehab unit is a very different unit than the rest of the hospital. It’s the last stop for most
people to work on getting back to normal life and many times with a serious disability. Most of us had to relearn everything and were completely dependent upon the staff here (me in particular as a partial quad). The nurses and the techs here not only have to make sure that we are well taken care of medically, we actually have to get fully dressed, transferred into a wheelchair and be on time to our rehab appointments twice a day. We were not in hospital gowns all day laying in bed. It was especially difficult and many times unsafe when PCT’s from other areas of the hospital were rotated into the rehab unit. These PCT’s do not have the same level of training as the rehab PCT’s and it is quite apparent. I have had many scary and unsafe experiences with these less qualified PCT’s that rotated into rehab.  The nurses and especially the PCT’s are dealing with many people that have spinal cord injuries and are trained to deal with their special needs. Many of these PCT’s that rotated into rehab did not know catheterization (something that I had to get done every four hours), they did not know how to safely transfer a patient from the bed to a wheelchair.  I was almost dropped by one PCT that rotated in, thankfully a med student was in my room to help scoop me up. Another PCT did not know that I had to put a binder on when i was dressed and put into a wheelchair. These binders are extremely important for someone like me that has a spinal cord injury. If it’s not on I would likely pass out. This happened to me on one Sunday and I almost passed out. Luckily my fiancé was there and I was brought into bed immediately.  All of these things have happened because of untrained professionals. I think McDonald’s employees are trained far more in safety than some of these PCT’s. Many times, when I was not with the regular rehab PCT’s, I felt extremely unsafe. This is not a good feeling to have in a hospital.
My experience in the Rehabilitation  Department was beyond excellent. The Physical therapists and the occupational therapists are extremely qualified and caring professionals who had a major impact on where I am physically and emotionally today as I leave the hospital. My OT therapist Suzette and my PT therapist Melanie were incredible. I came in here scared, not able to do anything and not confident at all with myself. Today I’m leaving stronger and with the tools that I need to try to get back to a normal life. Many times, I felt safer in the rehab gym than I did in my room, … Emotionally and physically. Every single one of them has a special gift.  I witnessed and experienced it every day. Because of them, I’m a better person today than when I enter this hospital. All of them went above and beyond what their job descriptions are. Gayle, who was not even my therapist, stopped in many times in the morning to see how I was doing. She even took the time to give me a manicure a couple times while I was here. This is a luxury that I did not expect from an occupational therapist. They were all like that. What a great group of people. Suzette and Melanie also offered me a shoulder to cry on many times when I was frustrated, upset and depressed. Having people around like this is so valuable in the recovery process. Suzette was aware that I came from a marketing background. She had asked me at the beginning of rehab to come up with a slogan to put on T-shirts so they could raise money for JHS rehab department. Sarcastically, I told her the slogan should be “JHS  rehab, the place that you never wanted to be and the people that you never wanted to meet”. I can honestly say today that I’m glad I’ve met all of the people in JHS rehab and regard them as my friends.
It’s too late for me to get these problems fixed that I’ve experienced, but if your goal is truly to provide your patients with excellent care, you might need to take some of these suggestions to heart. Also, don’t forget to recognize the people who truly provide their patients with excellent care and who live that mission statement that I stared at for 11 weeks while here at JHS.
Regards,
Mary Vaccaro

https://maryvaccaro.wordpress.com/category/the-road/

 
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5 thoughts on “Don’t $@&* With Me Fella’s…..It’s Not My First Time at the Rodeo

  1. Mary this is beautifully written. I know several of your Akron friends. And, I remember you from years ago when you worked with your brother, Rafe at Vacarro’s Trattoria. I have read all your posts–I have cried deeply inside for the seriousness of your situation. However, you have often managed to have such a great sense of humor that I have laughed aloud at some your musings and comments.
    I had hoped through my Bath Country Journal “Grapevine” column to mention your plight and have people in the community send you cards, but I never got the “green light” from Rafe. Although I could have asked Maria, Caroline or Betsy for your address I did not want to interfere.
    One of my dearest friend’s husband has lived with a a spinal cord injury for approximately 14 years. I set up a “card campaign” with our college friends while he was being rehabilitated in Denver. His wife, Jeanie (my friend) hung the cards across his room as somebody did for you. I know that she said it cheered him a lot during those first difficult weeks to see all the cards hanging across the room.
    It is impossible for me to understand how difficult this adjustment must be for you, but there is so much good progressive research being done for those with severe spinal cord injuries, so I pray that there will be a medical breakthrough for you. You have a tremendous amount of strength, a great voice through this blog and fabulous friends and families supporting you.
    Stay strong and faithful.
    Peace to you.
    Sincerely,
    Mary Colarik

  2. Mary, thank you so much for your kind words. You absolutely have the “green light go” to mention me. I love good old fashioned snail mail. There is something about the beauty of paper that cannot be topped. Should you need to reach me, Caroline and Betsy have my cell phone, or you can (or anyone) can email me at maryangelav@msn.com
    Thanks again!
    Mary

  3. Mary, I will be writing my column next week. I will be in touch. Mary

  4. Mary, I just read your letter….It is so well written! I hope Mr Migoya takes it seriously and makes the changes needed. I think of you often and pray that you improve daily. God bless you, stay stong!

  5. Mary, many times people who are unhappy with customer service get the “do nothings” and resort to bitching and moaning…Many times, the management fails to know what is going on under their noses (I do hate the excuse, “well if no one tells us, how are we to know”, other than it being YOUR JOB, why don’t you sniff around???”…But your letter, to the powers that be, are there TO IMPROVE the facility for the future patients and you put some great thought into this. I really hope that the accolades get to the wonderful staff, that treated you like MARY THE PERSON, and not Mary the patient. You are an inspiration…yeah, I bet you hear that alot, but that’s because you are…and I love that you wear that responsibility like a rock star 🙂

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