News Opinions / Op-eds

Is This Any way to run a Hospital?

St. Luke’s and My Covid Experience

This experience started in August when I got a head cold and it went into my lungs. I had a prior chest injury from 26 years before and have had this issue all through those years. I would be one of those that are considered having a prior issue that put me at a greater risk of dying when contracting Covid. The cough continued to get worse where I couldn’t get rid of it so our primary care physician had me start taking a Zpack on the 10th of September. 14th of September I went in to St. Luke’s Fruitland to get a chest x-ray it showed that I had Covid viral pneumonia. They started me on oxygen at home. On the 16th of September I was scheduled for a CAT scan to see if I had a blood clot. It showed that I did, so they made arrangements for me to go right over to St. Luke’s Boise. The ambulance took me over that evening.

When I arrived at the hospital they took me to the 5th floor and got me moved into a room there. The doctor came in and visited with me about what they would do. I told them that I did not want to be put on a ventilator and if I died I did not want to be resuscitated. I guess in telling them that they decided that they would not do anything else to help me. The doctor looked at me and said, “You will breathe or you will die”. The next day my son and daughter spent all day on the phone with the doctor and administrator of the hospital to have them give me the vitamins and other medicines that I was taking at home. They refused and the doctor even hung up on them. As a compromise the administrator told them one person could be with me in the room. My son, Klave came over the next two days to be with me. Dr. Sheesley was the first doctor. We would talk to him about the different things that had been helping people and he refused to even consider any of them. We asked him about nebulizer or breathing treatments and he said they don’t do any good. He was willing to give me tocilizumab (ACTEMRA). He said that it had a 50-50 chance of either helping or hurting me. He was willing to take that chance. We told him that we did not want to take that chance. The next morning they brought it in to give to me. We told them no again so the nurse poured it in the sink.

On the 19th of September they moved me to the 7th floor, they said that I could be better taken care of there because they had more nurses and therapists available on that floor. They agreed that a family member could be with me there. The 20th of September was my father’s funeral and my wife came over that morning to be with me and they would not allow her into my room, even though they had agreed the day before to allow it. My sons called the administrator and they finally let her in at noon when the funeral was to begin. She had to sit outside all morning waiting. My family said that communicating with the hospital was horrible. First they would not return any of their calls. One time when my son did get to talk to one of the doctors, the doctor hung up on him, after many calls to the administrator the hospital asked my son Cody to be the one they talked to. They would tell him different things depending on who he talked to and go back on what they had told him they would do in a prior conversations. He would call over at 4:00 AM so he could talk with the nurses that were taking care of me. Then again in the evening the same time at the shift changes.

The ambulance took me to Boise with an open mask that would go up to 15 liters. When I arrived in St. Luke’s they put me on High Flow 80 liters at 100% oxygen. It was like having a blow torch burning out my sinuses and lungs. The nurses would not do anything to help me. The next 12 days in St. Luke’s they waited for me to die. After the first day I had to ask about getting food. The next morning the nurse came in and told us that the orders she was given was no food or liquid. My son got with those in charge and had that taken off. We had a friend who was in the hospital a week and a half ahead of me that they did not give food or water or IV to for 14 days. He died. I continued to struggle to get oxygen. I had to think of every breath. I got so tired that I would look at the clock and set a goal of being able to breathe for 15 more minutes. When I would doze off I would lose my air and the monitors would start going off. The respiratory therapist would put a by pap on me at night mostly and it would make it so I could rest. I tried to use it at night and then once during the day. With it on I could not talk or eat. The nurses made sure that they came in every four hours and checked my vitals, give me the medicine, and ask if there was anything I needed. The trouble with all this was no care beyond that.

Because I was on the covid floor they would have to put on a gown, gloves and mask every time they came into the room. They didn’t like doing that. I would really need help, with personal needs, I would ring the nurse’s button and nobody would come. Sometimes it would be an hour, then they would crack the door open and ask me what I needed, most of the time by then I didn’t need them, then they would close the door. Other times if I still needed help they would tell me they would try to find someone to help me. On four different times they cracked the door open and told me they were too busy and didn’t have the time for me and would close the door. Most of the time when I really needed someone they would not come. Three different times the fluid bag on the high flow ran out and it took over and hour and a half to get a therapist to come change it. After that I started having bloody noses real bad. Most of the time when I needed the respiratory therapist it would take at least an hour to get help, most times two hours or more.

Another issue that was not good was the food. I would order breakfast around seven and it would be nine or ten o-clock before they would bring it to me and it would be cold. The food service would bring it up to the floor and the nurses just wouldn’t bring it in. I got so I only order twice a day. The evening would be eight or nine before I could get dinner. I started to ask an hour after I ordered it and it helped but many times it was still and hour after that. On the 20th of September, the day of my father’s funeral when my wife was with me they brought my evening meal in around 6 o clock, two hours after it was ordered. The nurse was all worried that the food was cold and wanted to go get me something hot. The problem was I had the by pap on and I couldn’t eat anyway. We asked her to get a RT (Respiratory Tech) to take the by pap off. She came back in and tried to get us to pick out different food. We told her again to get the RT and that I would eat it cold. It took an hour and a half to finally get an RT to come take it off so I could eat. The RT told my wife to feed me because the high flow had given me bloody noses so I couldn’t put it back on to eat. I had to use a mask while I ate. I would hold it on my face and lift it up as she would give me a bite of food. Then a different nurse came in and tried to make my wife leave while she was helping me. I got to the point where I was so weak from not moving and sick that it was hard to push the nurse’s button for help. When I would move or do anything I would be gasping for air. To eat I had to be very careful not to breathe food into my lungs. I would put food in mouth and have to chew a couple of times and then breathe and chew again until I could finally swallow. The whole time I was in St. Luke’s they treated me like they were told to give me minimum care.

After a week and a half of going through Hell they must have decided that I wasn’t going to die so they started having a physical therapist come in and started working with me. I was so weak I could not even stand beside the bed by then. On the 25th of September I needed a change of clothes, my wife brought them and a gift for the nurses on the 7ht floor. They allowed her to come up on the floor to deliver it. A kind nurse opened the door so she could see me. That was the first time the door had been opened clear up since I was put in the room and the fresh air felt wonderful. The room was so stagnant. My wife asked for my dirty clothes to take home and wash, but the nurse would not go in the room to get them. The nurse would not come into the room to get my dirty clothes because she did not want to put on a gown to go into the room. Finally another nurse by the nurse’s station heard what was going on and he came into the room without a gown and got the clothes. He was a considerate young man.

After having our close friend die, in St. Luke’s on the 22 of September, my family started to see the same pattern happening to me that they had done with him. On the 26th of September the hospital called my son and told him that a family member could come be with me because my lungs were hardening, which was the same call they gave my friends wife before he died. They decided that they had to get me out of the hospital. My son contacted the Weiser Hospital and arranged to have me moved there on comfort care. It took two and a half days of St. Luke’s stalling to get me moved to Weiser. My wife came over to be with me when they were supposed to move me on the 27th. They did allow my wife to stay the day and night with me, but the hospital stalled as much as they could. First it was they couldn’t get an ambulance, my daughter in law had one already to pick me up that night on the 26th for half what St. Luke’s were going to charge. We told them that. Then it was Medicare would not pay to move me to Weiser. We told them it didn’t matter we would pay. Then it was maybe it would be better to wait until the next day so it would be light during the transfer. We finally were able to move at 2:30 in the afternoon the next day. When the ambulance came and took me out of the room, it was like a breath of fresh air. I had been in that room for two weeks. It was so stuffy I could not hardly breathe. They kept the door closed the whole time, and slip in and out to check on me. When I left I was on 40 liters at 100 per cent oxygen. The ambulance put an open face mask on me at 15 liters and I road comfortably to Weiser no problems. It felt like l had come up out of a dark hole.

When I arrived in Weiser they got me to the room and settled me in. I was still so weak that they had to lift me on to the bed. The doctor told my family that I would more than likely be in the hospital for weeks to come. The RT came in and asked me what kind of things they had been doing for me in Boise and when my last nebulizer treatment had been. We told her that they hadn’t done any treatments at all she was shocked. She started doing four treatments a day and within a couple days we started to see improvements in my condition. They worked with me every day and they allowed my wife to stay with me the whole time and allowed me to take the vitamins and minerals that St. Luke’s would not allow. The food was great and always hot and on time. It was a night and day difference. They started me on PT and OT and got me up and walked everyday. I went home after two weeks in Weiser.

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