Tuesday, September 26, 2006

D Day

Doctor Day. Today I met with one of the consultants who treated Geoff to ask the questions that have been burning holes in my brain for the past few months. He was a nice man. He talked and listened. I talked and listened. Did I get the answers I am looking for? Some, though not all. Did it make a difference? Yes, I suppose so in a way, because I now have a face for the name. It is bizarre that here in the UK, it is almost impossible to get to speak to the consultant in charge of your husband/wife/child's case. There seems to be no effort on the part of any doctor to approach family to keep them aware of events, and it is up to the family to try to track down doctors. So being kept in the dark is the norm.

A very wise doctor once told me that the secret of medical science was to learn to trust instinct when everything else seemed illogical. He had learnt over 45 years of practice, that instinct, whether it be his own, the patient's or the patient's family, had rarely in his experience, been proved wrong. The question is, how do doctors nowadays, get the time to talk to the patient or their family, when the only communication is basically to tick boxes on endless forms and monitor beeping things? Even the taking of the pulse, blood pressure, temperature etc is done by machine. Drugs are administered by pumps or IV, and you can change those without even seeing the patient, or while talking to someone else. Food is delivered and removed by outside agencies. You can sit at a control desk like the Starship enterprise, and just read the data, without touching or seeing the patient. Even consultant's ward rounds only happen once or twice a week, and that is with an entourage who the consultants talk to more than to the patient.

So, without social interaction, how do you learn instinct? The simple answer is that you don't. It has to be on the forms or it is not there. They need scientific proof. So in Geoff's case, the test results say no infection, so there is none. Ahhhh, but there was. It was hiding. What a surprise they must have had when they operated and the infection that was not there suddenly was. I spoke to him every day. My instinct was screaming there is something radically wrong from the time he felt ill. The doctors facts and figures said no infection so not that bad, he is ok. How do you quantify instinct? Experience, I suppose, and acquired wisdom. Feelings. Emotions. All the things that science has no time or place for. How sad is that. And how incredibly dangerous for people who go into hospitals and are just numbers or beds, or conditions. The "AVR in bed 3" is actually a man, a father, a husband, a colleague, a friend, a brother, a son. The "MVR in bed 7 " is someone's beloved granny. See what I mean?

Blinded by science, you lose sight of the humanity. If you have not taken the trouble to talk to someone, and find out who they are, how do you know that they are quiet people, who hate complaining or making a fuss? Who would never ring the bell, no matter what because they don't want to disturb the nurse? Who have high pain thresholds and are stoic to the extreme?
What is this post about? In a way, I think I have discovered the real problem behind the NHS today. It doesn't need more paperwork. It doesn't need more technology. It needs more talking and listening. And watching people not screens. It needs a "mother" type person in each ward, to talk to the patients, find out who they are, what they are like, who will touch them and listen to them, their fears and hopes. Someone who can then add to the scientific notes things like..... "Will never complain. Check for pain. " "Not eating.... can't swallow and breathe". The NHS needs some old fashioned "kiss it better" type of medicine that every mother knows how to dispense.

1 comment:

Vee said...

This should be sent in to some medical journal somewhere. Sent in to some London newspaper or some publication where many will read it.