Advocating in the Hospital


photo by Jackie Averback

This is a picture of my mom and stepson last Saturday. She’s doing great; and as you can tell, she is a fun, special, intelligent lady who is a real go-getter.

On June 17, she went into the hospital for total knee replacement surgery. She was told she would be going home on June 20 with some  home health care and physical therapy after that. Well. . . as some of you already know, she didn’t make it home until June 29, and there were a whole bunch of problems that occurred that no one could have predicted (I guess).  But that’s where this blog post comes in. ..
If you have a parent, child, or even spouse going in the hospital for anything, you need to arrange for someone to be there with that person–and this someone needs to be an advocate. This someone needs to love and care for the person in the hospital, not be afraid to speak up, AND not think doctors and nurses know everything because they don’t. When my mom was in the hospital for her knee surgery, I was her advocate. My dad spoke up, but this kind of thing drives him crazy, and I think he’s less likely to “complain”. Maybe it’s my generation? Maybe it’s my personality?

If you’ve been following this blog, I have a special circumstance because although I’m 42 and my mom is 73, I had a 2 1/2 year old at home during this whole ordeal. (Hence the Sandwich Generation. .. ) So, I was advocating for my mom while also taking care of KB (and my stepson was at our house for the summer, too), and it was, well, something else. The story I want to FINALLY get around to telling today was the day my mom was reacting strangely to some pain medication.

The pain medication was tough for her because somehow someone got the idea that she was allergic to percocet (more to come on that next week), and so doctors decided after 24-hours of morphine to put her on Tylenol 3. (Any of you who have had major surgery know Tylenol 3 does not manage the pain.) As you can imagine, my mom complained of the pain, which was making her sick, and she wasn’t able to do the therapy they wanted her to do. So, then they switched her to Dilaudid, which made her hallucinate, not know whom the president of the US was, not able to FEED HERSELF, and not able to participate in any therapy.  It was like she had had a stroke. I watched other patients at therapy who had surgery on the same day as her doing the exercises and talking and looking like they improved each day–she did not. Hospital staff told me she was “refusing” to do therapy; and if she continued in this way, she would be discharged from the hospital because Medicare wouldn’t pay for her to lay in a bed.

I couldn’t believe what was coming out of their mouths, and so I spoke up. I found her nurse, who was the only one that day who seemed to agree with me that things were off, and I said, “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” She got the Dilaudid dose reduced, and this did seem to help–somewhat. But my mom was still not my mom–there was something wrong.  Then the social worker and nurse practitioner came in and said that my mom was going to be released, and we needed to talk about where she was going to go.  I said she wasn’t going anywhere!

You’ll have to stay tuned for the rest of that story next Tuesday. . .

You need to be with a loved one in the hospital. You know them better than anyone else. And your friends and family will help you with your children and other responsibilities until you can go home and hug your child. 




  • Unfortunately we’ve had to go through more medical related hoohaw than I can shake a stick at lately. My son was diagnosed with cancer in July and whoa– the testing, appointments, staging and now chemo is crazy sometimes. I’ve learned to listen a lot, ask a lot of questions and not be so afraid to challenge or clarify anything I don’t understand. Fortunately for us, so far, we’ve worked with fantastic folks, but it sure pays to be alert and ready to advocate if and when needed!

    • Julie: First of all, so sorry to hear about your son. I can’t imagine having to watch your child go through this. I knew from your blog that he was sick, but I must have missed the post when you mentioned what it was. I’m praying for you and him and your whole family. Cancer can be beaten! And yes, you have to ask questions. I wish I would have asked more questions when I was pregnant and had a bunch of complications, but I didn’t. However, that all changed once KB was born as a preemie and doctors were talking over my head and she would be in the room screaming. One time I said, “You have to stop talking right how. The baby needs to calm down so I can hear and understand what you are saying. You are talking about my daughter having surgery at 5 days old. Just wait a second.” UGH! I think it is easy for doctors and nurses (as in any profession) to be used to that kind of environment and forget to take each patient as someone’s loved one. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      A lot of people shared on FB, too, and some of their stories were unbelievable.

  • You have told me this story, but reading it again just makes my jaw drop. You are absolutely right. I had that emergency surgery a couple of years ago and hubby jumped right in to make decisions for me (b/c I was in too much pain and was confused about what to do). Pain makes you not think straight. The nurses in the ER absolutely sucked…I was in intense pain and had to keep calling for my meds. They would say on the speaker, “We’ll be right there, sweetie,” and then no one would come. It got so bad that I was shaking. An hour and a half later they finally brought in some extra strength Tylenol (crazy, right?). When I was finally admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery, the entire place operated differently. They gave me morphine (which is the strength that I actually needed) and the nurses were absolutely WONDERFUL. I wish they could have come home with me. Kept calling me “baby” and “sweetheart.” Good job, Margo, on being an amazing advocate.

    • I guess we can hope that during your ER experience they were understaffed because I can’t imagine a caregiver (Like a nurse/doctor is supposed to be) allowing someone to be in so much pain. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’ll write about this in a future post but once the pain was finally under control for my mom on June 27, the world changed–she was herself again. THANK GOD!

  • […] hospital. In my case, that someone was my mom during her knee surgery. I won’t go into all the details about her condition, but basically, she had the surgery on a Monday, was supposed to be at therapy that afternoon, and […]

So, what do you think?