- Cullman, Alabama


January 3, 2013

COMMENTARY: A Doctor Sees a Hospital Fail His Mother


I also knew we were on the clock. The first 24 hours of my mother's hospitalization would be critical to saving her life. Studies of sepsis have shown that early and aggressive treatments during that time can make the difference between life and death. The needed interventions include continuously monitoring vital signs, and giving antibiotics and lots of fluids. Very sick patients need to be treated in an intensive care unit with a special central-line IV that delivers powerful medications.

My mother was in serious trouble. I caught the next flight home.

The clock is ticking

Once home, I hurried to my mother's hospital bed, where the rest of my family already was gathered. I arrived about 9 p.m. "How are you doing?" I asked her. "Fair," she replied, her voice guttural and weak.

Sequestered during my flight, I'd been cut off from updates. But I'd kept doing the math. The hospital now was 12 hours into its critical opportunity to halt her systemic infection. I was eager to know my mother's heart rate and blood pressure, two basic indicators of whether she was getting better. I peered above her hospital bed, looking for the cardiac monitor providing this information. It wasn't there.

Confused, I approached my mother's nurse, thinking the monitor might be near her work station. But it wasn't there, either. This could be dangerous: Without a monitor, her doctors and nurses could miss sudden changes in her vital signs that would require swift action.

I leaned over and took a look at my mother's medical chart. Some infrequent vital signs had been recorded. And I saw a clear, terrifying picture. My mother's blood pressures had crashed during the day. Her numbers now were half of what they'd been at her arrival in the emergency department. My mother's emergency physician and oncologist had done few if any of the essential and obvious interventions needed to save her life. The nurse seemed calm, as if everything was normal.

Text Only
  • COMMENTARY: An alternative diagnosis to ADHD: Schoolchildren need more time to move

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011.

    July 18, 2014

  • Guideline: Most healthy women can skip pelvic exam

    No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

    July 1, 2014

  • Sanofi targets fake Viagra market with non-prescription Cialis

    Sanofi sees an attractive opportunity in the rampant market for counterfeit Viagra: luring men away from dodgy online pharmacies with an over-the-counter version of a competing erection drug.

    June 5, 2014

  • Hospital charges to treat chest pain jump 10 percent in a year

    The charge to treat Medicare patients with chest pain at U.S. hospitals rose 10 percent to $18,568 in just a year, the biggest rise seen among the most common inpatient procedures, according to federal data.

    June 2, 2014

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 26, 2014

  • Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work

    A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country's economic malaise.

    May 12, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Helmets won't protect your kids from concussions

    When I was a kid, helmets were for motorcyclists. Now I see children wearing helmets when they're scooting down sidewalks, skating, skiing, sledding and playing soccer. Last week one of my friends saw a helmeted kid power-walking in Prospect Park. You can even buy $40 baby helmets on Amazon, because, according to the product description, "babies will always fall taking their first steps."

    May 2, 2014

  • 400px-Cannabis_Plant.jpg How bad is marijuana for your health?

    The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a study linking recreational marijuana use to subtle changes in brain structure. The researchers, led by Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital, identified increased gray matter density in the left nucleus accumbens and some bordering areas.

    May 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014