Elder Parent Surgery, Part II: At UVA Hospital
My mother’s laparoscopic surgery at the University of Virginia Health System went splendidly with the best possible outcome. Part of the day’s success is due to medical skills, but it’s also due to the UVA hospital staff members who treated my mother with respect, dignity, and gentleness at every point of the day.
Mom did not need to be admitted, but we did spend the night after surgery at a hotel about two blocks from the hospital rather than doing the 60 mile drive on the same day. Interestingly she spent lots more time in recovery than she did in the surgery itself. Spending a minimum amount of time at a hospital is one way to avoid age-associated hospital complications.
Just about everyone, from the first person we met in admissions to the physicians who performed the surgery — even the woman who escorted my mother to the car — took the time to offer explanations and engage us in conversation. They kept us calm and well-informed, speaking directly to my mother even though my dad and I were right there. As mother left us to go off to surgery my dad was overcome with emotion. A nurse standing with us near the elevator, struck up a conversation, rode down in the elevator with us, and chatted with my father for a few minutes before taking us to the waiting area.
I am especially grateful that so many people worked overtime to offer support, because the hospital’s construction, combined with arriving in cavernous, noisy, and TV-filled admissions and waiting areas, caused a good deal of initial confusion for two people in their 80′s, even with their adult kids along. With all of the construction why not spend just a bit to set up a small quiet waiting area for elders who want to read or talk quietly or simply be a significant distance away from noise and televisions? Nothing fancy, just peace and quiet.
Now nurses always seem to have strong people skills, and the UVA nurses who assisted my mother were as strong and friendly as they come. However, I was especially struck by the physicians — surgeons, residents, and fellows — who took the time to explain things, listened and responded warmly, and gave the impression that they had all of the time in the world to be with us (We knew that they did not have lots of extra time, because our family member who is a medical resident was working her very last day of residency at a distant hospital location.)
You feel amazingly secure sending a family member away to surgery on a hospital gurney with people who have used their precious extra minutes to get to know a bit more about that person than just the mere medical details.
Our thanks to all of them.