In the Hospital? Have an Advocate

Medically reviewed in December 2020

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?

Absolutely.

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.

More On

How Do We Encourage Preventive Care?

video

How Do We Encourage Preventive Care?
Disease and illness prevention is critical to reducing costs and improving quality of life, but many people aren't motivated to take care of themselve...
Not Seeing This Doc? You Could Be Shortchanging Your Health

article

Not Seeing This Doc? You Could Be Shortchanging Your Health
Even though synonyms for the word “primary” include “chief,” “key,” “crucial,” and “most important,” 30 percent of American adults and nearly half of ...
4 Times to Never Shop for Anything

slideshow

4 Times to Never Shop for Anything
Keep your wallet shut—and your budget intact—during these oh-too-common situations.
The Small Business Impact on Private Practices

video

The Small Business Impact on Private Practices
How are doctor's offices doing at this time with people opting out of routine appointments? Evelyn Minaya, MD, Robin Miller, MD and Jen Caudle, DO, we...
What Can Be Done to Reverse the Obesity Trend?

video

What Can Be Done to Reverse the Obesity Trend?
People are eating more of bad calories and getting less exercise than in the past. This combination has led us to an obesity epidemic that can be reve...