To the untrained eye, my hands in the following photograph may not seem very different – each has an IV in it. However, to me, this picture represents the two types of experiences one can have in the hospital: excellent and crappy. And so much of that experience comes down to the people who work there and their talent and skill – or lack of one or both.
Let’s start with the image on the left, which is my right hand. This is an example of a beautiful IV insertion with its stat lock and white tape and lack of excess tape. Everything is positioned perfectly. All in all, an excellent job.
The image on the right, my left hand, has no stat lock and looks like something I might do if I had the mind to insert my own IV, which I think I could do if the world was coming to an end and my life depended on it. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it, though I might need the help of someone’s finger to stop the bleeding when I pulled the needle out. Look at the massive amount of tape used to keep the line in place because the thin white tape and stat lock weren’t used. I lost a lot of hair when we removed it.
Now here’s a question for you: Which site went bad and caused my hand to swell up and turn red? Easy answer isn’t it? I’ve been elevating my left hand for the past week to get the swelling down. The vein is rock hard above and below the insertion site. And it hurts. My medical diagnosis is Puffer Fish Hand.
This distinction between medical excellence and crumminess doesn’t stop at IV sites. It happens daily in the hospital with tests, procedures, and doctors. And for someone who stays in a hospital once in their lifetime, then the IV site on the right might not make much difference in the long run. However, I’ve stayed at the hospital four times this year and spent almost a month and a half there. The difference in the two types of care does matter because I’m exposed to more of these swings in quality the longer I’m there. They add up. And many result in more than a fat, tender hand.
Worst of all, not every difference in care can be photographed. The ones that can’t be seen scare me the most.