In the Hospital? Have an Advocate

In the Hospital? Have an Advocate

Recently, I woke up in the back of an ambulance after a bad bicycle accident with an EMT sticking an IV in my arm. The first words out of my mouth weren't "What happened?" or "Where am I?" Instead I said, "I have diabetes."

This seemed like important information to share—and I assumed the information would get passed along to the emergency department doctors, the floor nurses and so on.

But 30 minutes later, I was telling the ER doc stitching my nose back together that I had diabetes. That night, as a floor nurse took my vitals, I mentioned that I hadn't checked my blood glucose in hours. "You have diabetes?" she asked incredulously.

This routine repeated itself in the operating room the next day. I was in the facility two days before someone finally checked my blood sugar.

You'd think this was an anomaly, but I had a similar experience when I had an emergency appendectomy at another hospital six months ago. No matter how often I brought it up, the diabetes thing kept getting forgotten. A few hours after the surgery, I was offered a carb-laden meal, including sweet tea. I had to remind them again that I was dependent on insulin and had just gotten my appendix removed. I had my wife bring my insulin and blood glucose monitor with her to the hospital and I gave myself my injections the rest of the stay.

Neither of these facilities are bad hospitals. In fact, they are among the best in the Southeast. My treatment and outcome were excellent. Did I really need to be so vigilant about being my own advocate?


Smart patients advocate for themselves, and when they can't, they have others do it for them. I'm lucky. In both of my recent hospital stays, family members helped inform my medical team. In my most recent hospitalization, my brother stayed with me in the emergency department; he wrote down details and asked questions while I drooled on the shiny floor. I heard him remind doctors and nurses several times that I had diabetes, among other important nuggets of info. My wife came the next day, and together they acted as my eyes and ears when I could not.

Who will be your patient advocate?

P.S. I'm ordering a medical ID bracelet or necklace so healthcare workers will know I have diabetes whether I can speak for myself or not.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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