My top tips for ensuring a smooth hospital stay

How my actions can improve the quality of care I receive

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by Mary Lott |

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I clasped the wad of papers in my hand and made my way to the sign that read “Admitting.” I slumped into the chair and mumbled answers to the person on the other side of the desk. Most people say they don’t like hospital stays, but I don’t mind them. I know I’m there because I need to be.

This time, in late May 2018, I absolutely needed help. I hadn’t yet learned that I had cold agglutinin disease, also known as CAD. All I knew is that I was tired even as I got dressed in the morning.

I collapsed into a wheelchair and waited to be pushed to my room. My daughter hovered nearby and assured me she’d bring me some needed items as soon as she could. I had one further request for her.

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My approach to hospitalizations

I’d been hospitalized before (three cesarean sections and a couple of operations had seen to that!), so I knew how to interact with the staff. Plus, my mama had drilled into me some basic ideas for getting along with other people. Beginning with admittance, my introverted self would have to put all my people skills into practice. It’s a daunting task, especially for someone who’s sick.

The challenge was before me. If I succeeded in being polite and caring, I’d receive friendlier treatment. If I failed, people would naturally not want to be around me.

So what was my plan?

First, I asked for the names of everybody who interacted with me. Then, I tried to speak to them using that name. This signaled that I recognized their value and worth as fellow human beings. It’s a small thing, but it can yield major results.

Second, I listened to them. I asked questions about their families or perhaps acknowledged their long shift and asked how they were holding up. To remember answers but avoid appearing creepy, I jotted down notes in my iPad after the staff members left the room. That way, I could mention our conversations when I saw them again.

Third, I tried to be mindful of instructions. When I was admitted, I was told that I was at risk of falling. Therefore, a monitor was placed on my bed to alert the nurses if I got up. But they explained that it’d be better if I let them know what I needed and waited for them to assist me. That’s what I did.

Fourth, I listened to and researched what my doctors told me. A lot goes on in hospitals that patients don’t see or know about. My internet research helped me avoid asking easy questions and tying up valuable medical time. I was frequently told not to hesitate to ask questions about what was puzzling me, and I was warned that the internet is a cesspool of nonfactual garbage. All that is true. But reasonable research gave me some basic information and allowed me to ask more educated questions.

Finally, if something was wrong and I needed help, I asked for it. I’ve learned that genuine needs, like assistance in the bathroom, should be requested unhesitatingly. On the other hand, complaining about food that the nurses can’t control just makes me querulous. I learned to separate needs from preferences.

My best idea for saying ‘thank you’

My daughter came back to the hospital a few hours after she’d helped me through admittance. She had to shop for a few of the items I’d requested, but she brought everything. With her help, I emptied the large bag of Hershey’s Kisses into the nice glass bowl. She set it on the first table that nurses, orderlies, and all other staff would see when entering my room.

When these people stopped by my room during my stay, I made sure to say “thank you” for whatever service they rendered. That included those who cleaned my room or brought my meals.

I then asked, “May I give you a kiss?” Some were surprised. Some became quite guarded, as if this old, sick woman posed a danger. But everyone relaxed and smiled when I indicated the chocolates were for them. It added a bit of cheer and remembrance to my hospital stay.

I wish we could all stay healthy and avoid the hospital, but circumstances sometimes spiral out of control. Even when I’m feeling unwell, I must remember that courtesy and smiles make the situation easier.

Note: Cold Agglutinin Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cold Agglutinin Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cold agglutinin disease.