I lost Mom.

No, not like THAT. I just couldn’t find her.

I called her hospital room all morning with no answer. I was sure they’d just taken her for a test. Or maybe she couldn’t reach the phone.

By 1 pm, I got worried and called the nurses’ station. They couldn’t find her listed.

Uh oh.

After a quick hospital search (on the computer), they found her. She’d been moved up one floor late the night before.

“She’s okay, right? She’s not in the cardiac unit, right?”

I was assured she was fine and that she’d just been moved to accommodate more patients.

“Didn’t they CALL you?!?” Mom asked when I finally reached her by phone.

“Nope,” I said. “But that’s okay…I’m sure they had their hands full with other patients.”

I finally got another chance to call after dinner tonight. Same thing…no answer.

After about an hour of trying, I resolved to try again in the morning at a more reasonable hour. Then I realized that I’d never get to sleep if I couldn’t reach her before bed. I knew my mind would race with all of the awful possibilites that could befall an elderly, hospitalized, chronically sick woman in a hospital.

So I found myself dialing the hospital switchboard. They found her, all right…about ten rooms down the hall from where I’d spoken with her last.

“Really?” I asked. “I just talked with her, and she was…never mind.”

The switchboard connected me, and after a whole lot of rings, Chiquita picked up. Seems she couldn’t reach the phone. Which she was steamed about. Not to mention the fact that no one had called me to tell me she’d moved. Twice.

“If I call you from this phone,” she ranted, “it’s a long distance call. Thirty seconds would cost me $3!”

I wondered if having an ill cardiac patient get so pissed off was healthy. Least of all, for the nurses and aides who’d have to feel her wrath.

About ten minutes into our conversation (Mom was still bemoaning the highway robbery that is hospital telephone service), the nurse comes in.

“You called?”

“I couldn’t reach the phone,” Mom snapped.

“Sorry about that,” she answered brightly, and left.

So I’ll end this post with a question to all of you: how long is too long a response time to a nurse’s call button? I tend to give the nurses the benefit of the doubt. The way I see it, they’re very often angels of mercy who have a very thankless job. They’re overworked, and assigned more patients than they could reasonably handle while providing an adequate standard of care. On the other hand, if you’re sick and bedridden, that button is your lifeline.

Where would you draw the line?

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About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to http://about.me/kathleendheuer.
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