Memorial Sloan Kettering. The Mayo Clinic. MD Anderson. University Of Pennsylvania. The list goes on and on for the top hospitals when it comes to cancer treatments. There is a different list of facilities when it comes to heart surgeries, pulmonary issues, and so on. Many of our nations “best” hospitals are “teaching” hospitals, meaning that they are more likely to have the current diagnostic tools and treatments available.
I have taken quite a few moments to decide what hospitals to be taken too, of course ulitmately, I am at the hands of my wife to honor my wishes. The closest hospital to us just also happens to be the last hospital in the world I would ever want to be taken to. It has the worst reputation for cleanliness and sterility, in other words, you have a fairly good chance of going home with MRSA. The longer you stay in that hospital, the better the chances of contracting MRSA. So it is not necessarily a good thing if a hospital keeps you longer to recover from whatever took you there. The reason that my wife insists on taking me there? It is the only way that my daughters would be able to come and visit with me as transportation time alone would be an additional hour and a half. On a school night forget it with having homework. So, in that regard, I appreciate being local. It is a smaller hospital, which recently had been bought out by a larger network, still not on the national level, but the buyout has been expected to improve the quality of the local facility. I am just not sure that it has.
When I dealt with my Hodgkin’s Disease, I was not really aware of all of the “big” network and teaching hospitals available to me. I did believe that if I were to go to any of them, besides the great distance, I was not sure that they could give me emotionally what I was going to need, that I would be treated just as a number. Personally, I needed more than that. The doctor that I chose worked out of a small network, but more importantly, as all cancer patients probably had the oppportunity for this, I knew a patient personally that he cured, my grandmother. Granted, she was treated for breast cancer, but he saved her life, he could save mine. The big risk I took by doing this, he was an older doctor, so there was a chance that I would be treated with older modes of treatment and not the most current available. But I believed that if I had the confidence in him, I would have confidence in the medicine, and that would get me through.
At various points in my life, I would end up in the hospital and always felt comfortable with the hospital that I grew up near. It has become quite the network and one of the best in the country. So when I had some uncontrollable bleeding from an area that no man ever wants to see blood coming from, it was only natural that I went to that hospital. When it was determined that it was not cancer or cardiac related (yes, blood in the urine can be attributed to a valve issue with the heart), but rather a kidney stone, how quickly that stone situation got resolved depended on where the roaming kidney stone unit was and what day. Yes, hospitals in my area do not have their own “lithotripsy” machine. The first time that it would be back at this hospital would be in approximately two weeks, however, it was going to be back in town the coming Tuesday at a hospital that I swore I would never set foot in ever again. My grandmother had passed away in that hospital, and while it was not their fault as to the cause of death, I did have a problem with their methods of convincing people the importance of extending their terminal lives at the expense of their dignity. As far as I was concerned, this hospital tortured my grandmother during her dying days.
But for anyone who has ever had a kidney stone, or gall stone for that matter, no one will deny the pain level to drive a six foot 300 pound giant of a human being into a fetal position in pure pain, than a 4mm stone. I needed to have this resolved before the stone set to travel from my kidney. I was going to have to have the lithotripsy (shock-waving the kidney stone into obliteration), at this hospital.
Now let me tell you about how small this hospital is. I was the first scheduled appointment that Tuesday morning. Now remember, this is a fully functioning hospital. It also evidently has hours of operation. So the security guard unlocks the door at 5:30am precisely, and I am already third in line. I cannot see what is happening, but I do see a lot of head-shaking. Just like that, I am called to the receptionist and begin my admission, or the process that the hospital will be using in place of that procedure. You see, when I offered them my driver’s license and insurance card, they told me that their computers were not operating. They did not state if it was expected to be a long drawn out process or not. I stated that I had a 5:30 procedure scheduled so it was urgent that I be registered and they offered to make a photo copy of my indentification. Fifteen seconds later the woman behind the desk came back and said that their copying machine was not functioning either.
Did I mention that I did not want to be in this hospital in the first place? And so, without any identification, which I had to store in a locker while I was in for the lithotripsy, I was escorted into a room, where I would be anesthetized, with no identification, no hospital bracelet, nothing. And so, the procedure went on, because I could not risk returning to the state of pain that the pea-sized stone had been causing me. And to add insult to injury, they actually allowed me to sign myself out of the hospital later that morning, totally unattended.
I realize that the last example was an extreme case. But it did happen. And I went against my gut feeling in being treated at this hospital. I got lucky compared to how this episode could have turned out.
My heart surgery, that was a totally different story. I happened to be at that hospital in a connected doctor’s office. I was already there, but I was already aware that the hospital had a good reputation. But even that reputation is limited when it comes to long term cancer treatment effects.
When I found out, that I was not done with my cancer history, I had the major decision to make. And it did not even come down to the biggest hospital or the hospital that made me feel all snuggly and warm. I needed a network that had history, studied long term side effects. My prior posts have gone into great detail on just how urgent my decisions can be.
As you can see, it all depends on the situation, do you go with the big network or the little hospital. Does size really matter? To some it does, to others, it’s what you do with what you know.