Communication Breakdown

“Communication Breakdown, It’s always the same,
I’m having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane!”

-Led Zeppelin

When I started this blog for my daughter, I wanted to leave behind an accurate record of what I went through fighting cystic fibrosis. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished that or not. I can tell you that this week the blog feels as live and raw as it’s ever been. I don’t think I’ve held much back, if anything, for better or worse.

I reread the posts and it has been quite a week.

Don't look down. Creative Commons image

If the week has taught me anything, it’s the dangers of miscommunication. That lesson started in the hospital and extended itself into Friday. I didn’t realize how tightly wound I was balancing work and the hospital stay – there’s nothing like a battery of heart tests to keep you from the laptop and to get you behind in your work.

I know I’ve joked about this before, but it would really help if they had a workstation in the room. I need to figure out something better for future visits. Now that I’m older and cranky, it’s not as comfortable sitting at the bed typing away. If I win the lottery, I’m donating a chunk of dough to the hospital to redo all of the rooms Marriott style. I’ll ask them to name it the Fox Lives Here wing, with pictures of my arrogant pal on every wall.

Despite bringing a printed list of meds with me, the hospital seemed incapable of getting them correct. Some meds never showed up. Some showed up two days into the visit. My favorite part: certain meds I don’t take that weren’t on my list showed up, i.e., Pulmozyme, some stomach med they gave me during the last visit, and TOBI, which is wrong because I take TOBRA mixed for the eFlow.

Each time the RT arrived with a dose of Pulmozyme or TOBI in his hand and a look of “but all of you are the same” on his face, I thought Fox might unleash some of verbal kung fu on him.  Worst of all, then you have to argue with the RT that you don’t take a med.

“It’s in the chart,” the RT says.

“The chart’s wrong,” I say.

“The chart’s wrong?”

“Yes, the chart’s wrong.”

“How can the chart be wrong?”

“That’s a good question.”

“The chart’s wrong?”

“Yes, the chart’s wrong.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll go check the chart.”

“Sounds like a good plan.”

Five minutes later the RT returns.

“It’s in the chart,” he says.

“The chart’s wrong,” I say.

You get the idea of how it goes from there. Usually the last line is “I’ll go check it out.” What he really should say is, “I’m going to go on break and your insurance will be billed anyway.”

There’s always a corkage fee at any fine restaurant when you bring your own wine. Why not at the hospital?

Now I know why playwright David Mamet is a genius when it comes to writing dialogue. He writes it with repetition and that’s how many of our conversations go. The RT dialogue isn’t an exaggeration. It takes place in real-time, rapid fire, and lasts 10 to 15 seconds.

But it happens three times a day.

Then I received the email that sparked yesterday’s posts. When you receive partial ALL-CAPS from someone you respect, it sets off a chain reaction. Here’s the kicker. The primary person who read my original blog post, misread my statements, then placed the misreading on the Internet where other people reacted to it, causing my friend to have to deal with it.

I realized this week that the most important game we ever played in school wasn’t really a game or a joke. It delivered a great lesson, but was usually breezed over with a quick “do you get it now?” by the teacher.

The game I’m talking about is when one person tells a secret to another and the secret travels from person to another until it gets to the last person and sounds nothing like the original message.

What chaps my lips is how this game of “communication breakdown” takes place during each hospital visit. And worst of all, how it’s played with only two or three people working from a printed list of meds. They have a program in their head about cystic fibrosis and insert that program, overriding what’s in front of them – especially the doctor.

I’ll email my clinic later in the week about this visit and the story of the printed list. They’re good at dealing with these situations. I’m glad because if I hear “it’s in the chart” one more time, Fox will go postal. Not that I wouldn’t like to see that, but I don’t want to have to switch hospitals. Despite its flaws, I like the one I’m currently at.

Stay well.

4 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown

  1. You nailed it. You’d think RTs would realize CF is not a ruberic. I guess they’re trained to treat 60 year olds who gave themselves emphysema from smoking for 40 years. It’s too bad you’re not allowed to bring your own medication. That would solve a boatload of timing issues. Hope you’re feeling better. Watch some soccer, celebrate the Lakers, and drink some beer everytime misinterpretation of your blog makes you stressed/anxious/worried. Morph into the badass Fox who doesn’t care what people think of him. 🙂

    • Thanks, Nanos. Very interesting comment. I do bring my own medication, the correct dose of Xopenex and extra hypertonic saline because they can’t get it through their heads I do two in the morning and two in the evening. The RT’s hate me. When one was late showing up on Thursday, I just went ahead and started my meds. I had work to do. The head of the RTs came looking for me after the RT reported me. I keep pressing my clinic to tell them to leave me alone. They should wear UPS shirts. That’s what they do for me – deliver the meds. Apologies to the good RTs who drop the meds and run. I like them. There are good people in that position, but some are not.

      I have a real problem caring what people think of me. I’m trying to get over it. It really bothers me. I’m getting better. I may have overreacted but I claim the “I’m tired from being in the hospital this week” excuse.

      Thank god for Fox. He doesn’t give a shit what people think.

      Thanks again for the good advice.


  2. Your story is exactly why I take all my meds to the hospital. I got tired of waiting until an hour AFTER a meal for enzymes or explaining one more time that thyroid medication needs to be taken on an empty stomach, not with meals.

    Love the UPS comment. Our RTs don’t even do CPT since several of them developed carpal tunnel. Strictly medicine deliverers. Are you home now? Afraid I’ve lost the sequence somehow…

    hope you’re better!

    • MAL,

      I always bring my enzymes. The nurse shift happens around breakfast and if I get a nurse who doesn’t know CF, I don’t get my enzymes before the meal.

      I sometimes regret my UPS comment because there are good RTs. However, most of mine perform a task I don’t need.

      I am home, thank you, and feeling better.


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