“I’ve Made My Decision”

Today, my girlfriend Lissa headed to Virtua Hospital in Berlin, NJ for a procedure called an epidural, which was supposed to provide some pain relief for several bulging discs in her back. Lis is a strong girl, but the pain was a bit too much, and her doctor recommended the procedure to her.

So of course there are some basic info that needed to be sent to the hospital prior to the procedure, and the standard battery of height, weight, blood pressure, etc, were all done in the doctors office. Let me add that her doctor has been at the very least fat tolerant. So when his office called to schedule her procedure, she was told that she needed to head to the Virtual Hospital in Berlin rather than their Washington Township location, because the tables in Washington Township could only accommodate to 300 lbs. So, the appointment was set for today, and Lissa went to the hospital at around 1 pm for the procedure.

She was taken inside, put in a hospital gown, and prepped for the epidural. The doctor and anesthesiologist were both in with her, when someone who identified herself as the “Charge Nurse” arrived and asked to speak with Lissa, and advised her that “she was too obese to be on the table” where the procedure was to take place.

Lissa looked up and said “Excuse me?”, to which the nurse replied that the table would only accommodate to 400 lbs, but that she was over by 17 pounds. At that point the nurse said to her “You’re so pretty, I didn’t think you weighed that much!”

Lis began to cry, and both the anesthesiologist and doctor asked the nurse to reconsider allowing the procedure, since they had performed procedures on patients there who weighed more than Lissa. The nurse answered by saying “No, I’ve made my decision, and this procedure won’t take place here”. The anesthesiologist left, but the doctor was extremely apologetic to Lissa, saying he was sorry, and had no idea that this was going to happen, otherwise he would never had allowed the procedure to take place at that location. Even the duty nurse was apologizing to Lissa for how it was handled.

The charge nurse then returned, and threw an envelope at the end of the bed, and said “here, we’re sorry we wasted your time today”, and left. Lissa opened the envelope, and inside were gift cards to Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. She called me, and I picked her up, not knowing until we were far away from the hospital what happened.

So, what’s wrong with this story?

Simple, the conclusion. Now that might take a while, but let’s just say that chapter 2 started first with Lissa calling the staff manager at the hospital to tell them what happened. Let’s just say that she was very receptive to her comments, as this staff manager just so happened to be plus sized herself. This blog will also be part of Chapter 2.

So, here is what I see was done wrong.

First, the doctor’s office should have known the weight limits of the table at this hospital. They knew that the Washington Township location was ill equipped to handle the procedure, so they called the Berlin location, and were told that the limit was 500 lbs. By the way, Virtua has another location in Marlton, NJ where bariatric surgery is performed, so of course their tables can accommodate the super fat.

Second, bariatric surgery is performed at the Berlin location. That said, are those surgeries only being performed on people under 400 lbs? I see, so it’s just cosmetic weight loss surgery. If you’re reeeeeeeeeelllllllllly fat, you can go to hell, right?

Let’s discuss the charge nurse. EVERYTHING is wrong here. Her attitude, the decision to stop the procedure over 17 lbs, in order to protect “the table”, her comment about being pretty and not thinking she weighed that much (did you all know that only ugly people are fat?), and then throwing a fatty a couple of food gift cards in an effort to shut her up were all things that the hospital will have to address now. How about her refusal to listen to both the anesthesiologist and the doctor, who have both performed procedures with fat people at this place in the past.

It was all malicious, and in my opinion, meant to cause shame to Lissa, and bully her into losing weight.

Part of what they had NO idea of is that Lissa has worked hard over the past 18 months to become healthier. When we first met back in June of 2010, she weighed over 450 pounds. Today, at 417, she feels better, her blood pressure, sugar and counts are all very normal. She is trending positively, and would surely fit the HAES approach for fat women.

So, there’s the first part of the saga. Lissa has had similar problems at another hospital about 8-9 months ago, but had some other personal issues which took precedence over filing complaints, and never moved on making the hospital accountable for their actions.

Not this time.

More to come.

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19 thoughts on ““I’ve Made My Decision”

  1. Sorry to hear the tactless nurse was on duty. I’ve never ever heard of a hospital giving gift cards as an apology – is that a policy or is this nurse just way out there somewhere? Hope they reschedule the epidural soon and that it goes well this time.

  2. That makes me want to hug Lissa. I truly hope she gets some pain relief soon (back pain is NO joke!) and I hope that charge nurse gets raked over the coals. Have you ever read the “First, Do No Harm” blog? It’s rather eye-opening as to how fat people are treated by medical “professionals” every day. I even have a story on there.

    http://fathealth.wordpress.com/

    I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the story. I hope there’s justice for Lissa included.

  3. I am so sorry for Lissa. The Charge Nurse’s behavior is inexcusable, and Virtua has some serious tap dancing to do now. And you really do bring up a great point in that they do Bariatric Surgery there. You mean to tell me there were no tables to accommodate her? In the entire Hospital? BS.
    Clearly this woman has way too much pull telling a Doctor and Anesthesiologist what to do, and I am certain it is not hospital policy to hand out gift certificates for fast food restaurants for any reason. Makes me think the nurses were sitting in a room somewhere having a field day with this. What miserable jerks. Kudos to you for sticking by her side. Way to be a great guy.

  4. I’m sorry Lissa had to go through that and I totally agree it was her motive to shame her. They want us to take better care of ourselves yet they don’t even have the basics such as tables and chairs to accommodate us. I had to get a MRI once and the transporter sucked his teeth and moaned and groaned about having to push me in the wheelchair and after dealing with that and made to feel like a fat disgusting person who didn’t reserve respect, I was told the machine only goes up to 250. At that time I’m sure that was the weight of one leg smh. They had to make me go through all of that? They couldn’t read the chart or look at me and know I exceeded that weight? I refused to let that man push me back to my room and began to walk back on my own, but the MRI tech felt bad about what happened and pleaded with me to allow him to take me instead. He did it without any complaining and didn’t make me feel bad for who I was. Those are the people I remember in the hurtful times. BTW, I would of force fed her those damn gift cards.

  5. First of all, congrats to your partner for taking such good care of herself! I need to follow her example more often!

    Secondly, that is so ridiculous! I was a massage therapist for years and am currently in med school where we have a lot of massage tables. Most of them are likely weighted for 350 (the one I own is) and I sit and lay on them often at over 350 with barely a creak (many do creak, but they creak for my very slim classmates too). I can guarantee that 17 lbs, and probably even 50 lbs was going to cause a huge problem. Heck, I climbed on my table once at over 300lbs with an approx 200 lb client and the table was incredibly unhappy (cracked a tiny bit) but is still in solid shape a decade and much use later.

    I’m so glad you all are pursuing this. That nurse needs to be fully aware of the mental and physical anguish she caused.

  6. It is so wrong that that charge nurse abused Lissa so. What she did was inappropriate, wrong, and cruel. I hope that the staff manager is able to effect some change in that charge nurse’s attitude, if not in her employment status!

    We shouldn’t have to justify ourselves to anyone! It’s nobody’s business if Lissa’s current weight is less than it used to be or what. Everyone should be treated with respect, consideration, and compassion, especially when at a hospital!

    This story is apalling, and I hope Lissa and you can come through this. Please take care of yourselves, both of you, as best you can in the circumstances. And please keep writing about it. The world needs to know, and people like that nurse need to be exposed.

  7. you go get em!!!! not at all glad this happened but glad it happened to one of our tribe who knows how to deal with mean spirited bigotry directed at us fatties. May the force be with you!!!!!

  8. Wow – how freakin cold can a person be. As a “health care professional” (and I use that term loosely) she should have been sympathetic to the situation at hand….I would go back a beat the crap out of her when she gets off duty. Hope Lissa got what she needed and that shes feeling better!

  9. I am very sorry that your girlfriend had to go through this, but I feel a need to speak up about a few things before you let this fester longer in your heart.

    First, I am absolutely going to back the nurse’s decision – and I’m going to do so from the perspective of someone who’s in the same weight class as Lissa.

    Please do me the favor of looking at this from the perspective of the nurse. This woman is in charge not just of the decisions she makes, but she is responsible for ALL the decisions made by her staff. If someone else was making a poor choice, it’s her job to play the heavy (no pun intended). She has to be willing to be a bitch when she needs to. Nurses already have a thankless job and charge nurses have it worse. They are the folks who are stuck making the unpopular decisions, and then they have to break the bad news.

    The charge nurse absolutely made the best decision, unquestionably. There was a LOT more at stake than Lissa’s dignity. The table had a specific weight limit and it was exceeded, period. There is not a lot of room in medicine for mistakes. Whether it was three pounds, or 17, or 50 doesn’t really matter. The table has a weight limit for a reason. A medical procedure like an epidural is a sensitive and dangerous one. How do you think you’d be feeling right now if the nurse had relented and then something had happened to that table in the middle of the procedure? Lissa could have wound up wounded, or even paralyzed. At that point you would have been rightly furious at the nurse for not discharging her duties properly. The doctor would have been at fault, certainly, but the charge nurse would have lost her job and ended up the victim of a malpractice lawsuit. In fact, she could have lost not only her job but her entire livelihood, and possibly ended up with jail time. I’m sorry, but your girlfriend’s momentary embarrassment does not weigh heavily against that in my book.

    Also, you have no idea what factors played into the situation before you all got there. Maybe the doc had already been apprised that the table would not accommodate Lissa. Maybe he made a bad decision to override that and put the charge nurse in the position of having to break the bad news so he could remain the good guy. Her anger may have had nothing to do with Lissa but with the untenable position in which she’d been placed by people who should have known better. It may not have been her choice to give Lissa the gift certificates. And if she has a problem with fat people, why on earth would she have given her food certificates? That makes no sense to me. Mind you, I’m not saying this is what happened, just reminding you that you only have a portion of the facts. You have no idea what went on behind the scenes.

    As for your assertion that this was deliberate bullying? Well, I find that farfetched. That room had to be cleaned and resterilized, the materials that were used had to be replaced and the doctor had to make a trip in that he would probably not have needed to. Their time is too valuable and dollars are too precious in a time when hospitals are already shortstaffed and hurting for money. Every penny counts and suggesting that they would waste so much time and money trying to make a point feels absurd to me.

    In the end, remember that the nurse isn’t there for you all to like her; the nurse is there to do her job, which is to keep Lissa safe and that’s exactly what she did.

    1. Time will tell the right and wrong here, but I think you may be wrong on several counts. I knew at some point I’d get a dissenting view.

      In the past on my blogs, I rarely approved comments because I didn’t want my thoughts to get dissected, but I wanted to approve your comment in particular, as it presented a different side.

      I realize the charge nurse has a job to do, just like any of us. I work in sales, and I often have to break bad news to my customers. In doing so, I strive to do that with compassion. Can you tell me that there was any compassion on the part of the charge nurse? I am not sorry for saying that I won’t accept being treated poorly, and equating it with protecting the best interests of the hospital.

      The medical community bullies people all of the time, not just about weight, but many other things. I had a recent doctor visit, about 17 months since the bilateral pulmonary embolism that I suffered. 3 months ago, my blood pressure was 133/81, on this visit it was 123/70. My blood sugar last time was 131, this time it was 114, and my oxygen exchange rate went from 97 to 99. Despite that, the doc pushed me very hard about going on metformin. I refused, since all indications were that my numbers were trending to normal. While I’m more than fine with monitoring with my health specialists, I believe (as should most people) that health is a cooperative effort. While they certainly know medicine, I KNOW my body, and having survived cancer, and several other maladies that can be fatal in my 57 years on this earth, I think I have some control (though not all) over what goes on with my physically.

      My empathy for people in medicine stops when I see someone crying, which is what happened in my girlfriend’s case. Lissa deals with fat prejudice on a daily basis, and always handles it well. For her to be crying, there had to be more to the story. I know there was bullying going on, but thanks for the offer of an explanation.

      The doctor will be taken to task at some point (or at the very least his office, for not being thorough enough to ensure that the facility will be good with a procedure on a 400+ lb woman), but his compassion both prior to this and after to me indicate that he wasn’t trying to be the “white knight” here.

      I *hope” that if something like this ever happens to you (and perhaps it has), you and whoever is in your life have the ability to look at the situation as objectively as WE both had before she made the call to the hospital, and before I wrote the blog.

  10. Disgusting, utterly disgusting. What a sanctimonious prat this “Charge nurse” was. And what kind of compensation are these meaningless gift certificates. Ugh–I could smack a beeyotch. Some people should never go into medicine.

  11. Just one minor complaint about your blog design–the font is teeeeeny! I know, I’m old and my eyes ain’t what they used to be. I am now following your blog, by the way.

  12. I’m so sorry to read this. The charge nurse has been thoughtless and highly insensitive. To throw down a couple of gift certificates like that – it’s beyond belief. Please pass on my good wishes to Lissa and I hope she finds the surgery she needs.

  13. I hope you do go after them. I can’t believe the gift card thing…wtf? I have had my fair share of nightmare hospital visits. These healthcare “professionals” need to have some sensitivity training. Half of them have the bed side manner of Don Rickles. This makes me very angry. Tell her I am raising my fist in solidarity sister. I would be glad to ram that fist in the charge nurses behind if you like. 🙂

  14. I’d be baying for that “charge nurse’s” blood. I would be calling for her to be fired. That is no way to treat a patient, a human being and someone in pain. No matter what their size.

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