Surgical Hijinks

Yesterday went very well for my mother (YAY!), but it was a comedy of errors for me.

Here’s the plan. Not that anything ever goes according to plan. My mother was to have her surgery at a hospital about 25 miles northwest of her hometown, which put it (sort of) on the way for me. So she found a friend to drive her, and I was to meet her there at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. While I was preparing to leave, she called to say that the hospital had had a cancellation and wanted her to come in a couple hours early. No problem, she said; her friend could stay with her until I arrived. So I finished packing and hit the road, figuring the surgery would be done by the time I arrived.

All went well until I exited the interstate.

I was to follow Highway 92 until I reached a crossroad that would get me to Highway 54, drive a couple more miles, and I’d be at the hospital. Sounds simple, right? Except that Highway 92 was suddenly no longer Highway 92 but instead State Road 138. I pulled over and looked at my MapQuest directions. Ah, there’s the problem. Highway 92 had taken a right turn a few miles back, and after wasting only 20 minutes or so backtracking, I was again on the correct road. I congratulated myself and started looking for the cross street that would take me to my destination. Only one small problem — Highway 92 disappeared again. With no warning (and no direction from MapQuest), I found myself on Highway 29. Was it opposite day?

The next thing I saw was a sign that said “Welcome to Palmetto”. Yes, I grew up in Georgia. No, I haven’t lived here for over twenty years, and I don’t remember the names of every tiny town in the state. I saw a street sign that read Fayetteville Road and thought, “This is it!” After all, Fayetteville, or at least its outskirts, was my destination. Fayetteville Road was exceedingly rural. It finally led me to the booming metropolis of Tyrone, where I spotted the Senoia Road. Another familiar name. I headed for Senoia. Ended up in Peachtree City, where, after some more frustrating twists and turns, I accosted a nice lady in the Kroger parking lot who was loading her groceries into her golf cart. She gave me what turned out to be simple and easy directions to get to Highway 54 and the hospital.

However…when I got to the road she had told me would be Highway 54, it had a name instead of a number. Some famous dude, I guess, but no one I recognized. By this point, I wasn’t about to trust that I was in the right place, so I pulled over to ask a road crew. “Where’s Highway 54?” I asked. “You’re on it,” replied the road crew worker, looking at me like I might be off my meds and a just a little scary. “Okay, where’s the hospital?” “Just keep going the same direction.” “Okay, thank you!” Good thing there’s only one hospital in the area. I arrived only an hour and a half later than planned, to discover that my mother was still waiting to go into surgery.

And that’s another story.

The doctor finally came in around 3:30, and my mother was whisked away to the OR soon thereafter. About the same time she would have gone in if she hadn’t come early. I was given a beeper and told to stay close, as the surgery would only take an hour or so, depending on whether the bones needed pinning or a metal plate with screws (OUCH!). I ran down to grab a healthy Chick-Fil-A sandwich from the kiosk in the basement and then settled in the waiting room to watch the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Why, yes, I am behind in my TV viewing. Why do you ask?

After a short while, the geriatric volunteer came around and confiscated our beepers, saying he was leaving for the day. He was wearing an aqua vest. All the volunteers were wearing aqua. You know, I remember pink ladies and candy stripers. Maybe they decided pink was too feminine for the male volunteers. Or something. Anyway, he told us that the surgical staff would call the front desk from that point on, and as long as some “volunteer” in the waiting room answered it, we would be able to get information about our loved ones.

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, close to 7 PM, I heard someone call my name and headed for the phone. Of course, the woman who had been pressed into service (and she didn’t even get to wear the aqua vest!) had already hung up the phone and told me she didn’t know which extension I needed to call. I went through the Authorized Personnel Only door and started asking questions. No one knew why I was called. They finally located the doctor by phone, and he began our conversation by telling me that he had “beeped me twice” and didn’t understand why he couldn’t locate me before. I know; it’s so hard to find people who are SITTING IN THE WAITING ROOM. Good report — surgery went well — Mama could go home. That one was a bit of a surprise, as he had told her he planned to keep her overnight, and we were expecting the 23-hour stay.

A couple minutes later, Mama arrived back where she’d started –yeah, the same place where no one had recognized her name or had any idea why I’d expect to find her there just minutes before. I told the nurses that I had not been given any information. One insisted that someone had called the front desk. I insisted back that no one had called my name, although I’d heard other patients called throughout the three hours I was sitting there. I even saw actual human beings come out looking for patients’ families. I told them that the doctor had tried to beep me, but the beepers had been taken away. Nurse #1: “Oh yeah, they take up the beepers at 4:00.” Me: “I thought you should be aware of this.” Nurse #2: “I beeped you a long time ago.” Looks at chart. “Yeah, I beeped you at 4:20.” I refrained from pinching her, just barely, and replied, “Yes, and they take up the beepers at 4:00!!!” Nurse #2: “Oh yeah.”

We finally escaped around 8 PM, and Mama was, fortunately, lucid enough to give me directions so I didn’t get lost on the way home. She’s in some pain this morning but is feeling pretty well otherwise. She got away with pins and didn’t have to get a metal plate. She gets a cast next week and should be back on the golf course in a couple of months. That makes all the hassle worth it.

16 Responses to “Surgical Hijinks”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Wow, makes me really glad I don’t have any surgeries planned for the near future. They did operate on the correct arm, though, right???

  2. Kathy says:

    They did operate on the correct arm, though, right???

    Yeah — the care was great; it was the communication that sucked. :)

  3. Katharine says:

    Communication: not something taught in nursing or medical school. You’re lucky to have come home with the right mother!

  4. Kathy says:

    I must say the surgical staff was diligent about making sure my mother knew what they were doing — and making sure they were doing it to the right person. There was an entire bulletin board devoted to protocols for making sure no one removes a gall bladder from a patient with a brain tumor.

    I would have felt better if they had apologized or at least acknowledged that the communication breakdown was their responsibility and not mine, but neither of those things happened. At least there’s a chance someone will remember the beeper routine next time.


  5. Helen says:

    And then they wonder why people sue.

  6. Brandon says:

    Hi there. Very nice blog. I just moved back to Alabama and am glad to see soem progressive voices out there….check out my blog at

  7. Kiki says:

    You’re supposed to bring a sharpie and mark the limb/side being operated on very clearly (like “this one,” or better yet “not this one”!)! Some doctors come in to consult with the patient and sign the limb themselves, so they don’t mess up! Hope your mom recovers quickly!

  8. Cindi says:

    Hope you’re mom recovers quickly. Sending prayers her way. Sounds like you’re lucky you got there at all. Sounds like you’re lucky you actually got your OWN mom to take home. (sigh) Now you can be glad it’s over!

  9. Tricia says:

    Glad your Mom is doing well. I’m glad you found her. :-)

  10. Renee says:

    Great story.
    Maybe your Mapquest was out of date? The GPS in my car was set up in 2004, so new and improved routes aren’t on it. I love getting on rural roads and Maxine (my GPS voice) telling me that I am not on an estalished road. On the screen, it looks like I am traversing cow pastures! Then the little red car on the screen heads back onto the original road and all it well.

  11. Don says:

    Kathy, First of all, I’m glad your Mother seems to be doing well.

    I’ve discovered that MapQuest, Google maps, and Yahoo maps all may contain misinformation such as telling you to turn in the opposite direction from the correct one. I just got out my trusty Official Georgia DOT road map and tried to follow the course you travelled and I can see where you took some wrong turns. Whether that was caused by misinformation from MapQuest or by poorly marked or incorrectly marked road signs I can’t tell, but I know that I would trust an old fashioned map like the one I have and my sense of direction than I would any of the online map services, and the instant I thought I might be going the wrong way I’d not be too proud to not stop and ask for directions.

    I’ve also heard horror stories about being misdirected by these GPS gadgets.

  12. Tricia says:

    Yeah, it’s funny. My place in Crestwood can only be located on Mapquest. Google and Yahoo estimate its location a few blocks away. It’s not exactly a new neighborhood.

  13. Kathy says:

    Y’all are so right about MapQuest. For quite a while, any directions I requested from my house invented a nonexistent way to exit the neighborhood, showing a through street that isn’t there.

    Don, the first turn I missed was included in my MapQuest directions, but after that I’m not sure which of us (MapQuest or me) was more confused. I looked at a map last night too and never did figure out exactly where I went wrong. I do know I went around in a really big circle. :)

  14. Don says:

    Kathy, on your next trip, perhaps you should take Jennifer along to navigate. Surely she learned how to use a compass and read maps at the Boy Scout camp, yet she can’t seem to find the key to unlock her closet door and let me out. :-)

  15. Kiki says:

    Never use Mapquest in Savannah, GA!!

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