« Birth Story (Part 1) | Main | Normalcy »

Birth Story (Part 2)

Ronan Sucking a Finger

Ronan Sucking My Finger

Ronan’s born. Cue fade to black. Roll credits, end of story. We all lived happily ever after.

Gee, I wish that were the case. I have mixed feelings about putting this in writing — it’s important to focus on the wonderfulness that is Ronan — but our hospital experience was so terrible, I feel I have to share it.

In the last ten years it seems our extended family has spent a lot of time in hospitals. My Dad has open-heart surgery for a defect since birth and his gall bladder out, my Mom had her appendix out, back surgery and then she broke both ankles in a fall. Then our extended family tended to cancer in both my maternal and paternal grandmothers until their eventual deaths. I’ve had two surgeries; one to remove my gall bladder and a second to repair a hernia. So, we all know what a good hospital stay is.

Our time at Long Island College Hospital felt more like prison.

Almost any one of the problems we encountered would be laughable, a great story to tell, if it was an isolated incident. In total it was horrible and never-ending and added greatly to our stress. Some of them were probably actionable in court, but it would be very hard to prove anything without suing the OB, and we don’t think she was the cause of the problems, and she worked very hard to rectify the ones she was aware of. So we’re not going to sue; after this post, we hope to just focus on the positive being that is Ronan and move on.

The problems began when we got into the birth center. The first nurse who got us settled in made a lame-ass attempt to calm us down by telling us about her lawsuits. Yes, that’s right, she was being sued. She was quite angry about it; she tried to make fun of it. If you’re in a nursing program, or are thinking about being a medical professional, let me say right now that telling your patient that you’re the subject of a lawsuit is not really very calming.

The whole evening of the labor, the one answer to every question was “we’re really busy.” That’s an acceptable answer for ice chips, a soothing word, another pillow or blanket, but as the emergency c-section progressed, that’s not an acceptable answer for “Is she bleeding too much?” or when the alarm on the fetal monitor kept going off. At one point I was told, “the other patients are important too.” Yes, to their families and maybe the staff, they are. But Terry only had me to advocate for her. The condition of the other patients is not my responsibility and that’s not a valid excuse!

When Terry came out of surgery she needed morphine. For some reason the charge nurse in the recovery room wasn’t allowed to handle controlled narcotics, and the anesthesiology team, apparently all of them, were in the operating room on successive c-sections so they couldn’t even order morphine until they were done. Terry kept asking for pain meds, I kept asking the nurse, she kept saying that there were no anesthesiologists available to write the script, and she couldn’t fill it anyway. About two hours went by; Terry, completely out for the c-section, began to complain of more pain.

Finally, around 4 AM, I found her OB, who had been performing the successive c-sections as well. “How’s your wife?” she asked. “Well, she hasn’t got morphine yet.” I said. “What?” She said. “She’s been laying there for hours, and they say no one is available to medicate her.” I said. The OB called the recovery room nurse, confirmed my story, and then killed — killed — the anesthesiology resident dead in front of the entire nursing staff. Okay, I’m speaking metaphorically, but the resident lamely tried to say that since she wrote the script that was the same as Terry getting medicine, which anyone in pain knows that an order for medicine and actually getting that medicine are two different things.

I guess because Terry got the morphine so late, they kept her in the recovery room for eight hours. (I’ve been discharged for outpatient surgery in less time.) We didn’t get upstairs to well baby maternity until 9 AM. My brother Ryan met Ronan again and went home, his mission completed until the world needs a savior again.

Terry received assistance from a floor nurse immediately in breastfeeding Ronan, even though she was tired and in pain. This was the first of several meetings with different nurses, including a lactation specialist, who gave conflicting information and suggested different holds and positions without really helping Terry to understand that she and Ronan could choose the best position for them. One nurse said “you want to have round nipples after feeding” without indicating how to accomplish that. Terry was left confused and insecure.

But after that first instruction, thinking everything was okay, I went home to answer the phone and E-mail messages and give Terry’s parents an update. I was overtired and overexcited and with my own parents arriving in a few hours, I didn’t sleep at all. About 2 PM the same day, my parents newly arrived, we all went to the hospital.

I was completely unprepared for what I found. Terry was disconnected from her IV fluids, despite not having eaten solid food in 30 hours. She was upset and had been calling for help for hours. Ronan had fallen asleep during feeding and she was unable to move him with the surgery pain. Finally her roommate, who was recovering from a c-section herself, lifted Ronan into his bassinette and was helping Terry out of bed when I got there. I am sooo simplifying the situation to protect Terry, but basically the hospital had not responded to her call button or voice cries. She was exhausted without IV fluids and very dehydrated and upset. I was so angry they got the nurse floor manager and she quickly got people to restart her line and get her calmed down.

The well baby floor staff seemed very confused in general. I spent as much time as I could at the hospital because every request was met with a request to confirm Terry’s name (sometimes three times), incredulous disbelief that that Terry was in need of what she was asking for, or simply ignored. The next nurse or pediatrician would ask us for what the last medic had said about Ronan, and one even denied that Terry had met with anyone the day before. The last day the food service staff told Terry that she wasn’t eating her lunch fast enough and she had to eat her dinner in a more timely fashion. Plus the way that everyone — maintenance, nursing, food service, and pediatricians — walked into the room regardless of whether the curtains were pulled close made me really wary of anyone entering. They often would enter, make a lot of noise, and then realize that they were in the wrong room. When Terry got a new roommate, the transport worker wheeling her in didn’t seem to care that he was pulling away Terry’s curtain while she was breastfeeding. He blamed the nurse. I didn’t care who it was — can we wheel someone in without disturbing the other patient in the room?

All of this together was overwhelming, exhausting and left both of us wondering for Terry’s and Ronan’s safety, not in a “Oh my God get us out of here” way, but in a vague sense of unease — of dread — especially when nurses would casually mention that they were in trouble for not making notations on patient charts or people were confused because another mother with a similar last name was on the floor. I talked with my parents about switching hospitals, but it seemed that Terry would be better off without that stress of moving. The whole experience left us angry, tired and upset, and despite several meetings with the floor manager, we were very disappointed and glad to get out of there. There was only one night that Terry felt like she worked with a compassionate nurse. I think the situation led to Terry having to back for pain management in the Emergency Room within 36 hours.

I’m sure every parent feels like crisis mode is engaged when labor starts, but instead of that being released when Ronan was born, I feel like I’ve been in danger mode for a week. I know other couples have had worse birth experiences, but the thing that drives me crazy is that all of this could have been avoided if Long Island College Hospital was better organized, the staff better trained, or even if there were adequate nursing staff for everyone on the floor. I’ve worked in pediatric hospitals and I know that there the level of staff was connected to the number of patients on the floor. If they needed more nurses, they called more staff. I guess the nursing shortage has changed things from twelve years ago.

The whole time in the hospital, I kept thinking about the radiologist who performed Ronan’s ultrasound. He said health care in this country was going to collapse in the next ten years. After this week I feel like that collapse has already begun.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (2)

Jenn Kirby:

Hey Jason,

Thanks for your story. First, Ronan is absolutely precious and wonderful. So glad to see him looking so beautiful and healthy.

I am sorry to learn that your birth experience was so bad. Unfortunately your story confirms my feeling about community hospitals overall--that they are a very hit-or-miss proposition. Worse, in urban areas they can be downright awful.

I wouldn't agree that the healthcare system is going to collapse necessarily but we'll sure see some revisions to it.

I also want to add that you can have positive experiences. When our daughter needed open heart surgery we took her to Columbia Presbyterian and they were amazing. When my sister needed treatment for a very aggressive cancer, she also went to Columbia Pres. But note that each of these cases started out in community hospitals that proved insufficient for the needs at hand.

Bottom line: unless your situation is really routine, community hospitals can be rough. But what are people to do, schlep all over to get to a hospital far removed from where they live? It's such a bad scene.

If you didn't do it already maybe you should share your story with a patient advocate at Long Island.

Anyway, may things improve from here and your medical experiences going forward be totally uneventful.

Best wishes,


Thanks, Jennifer, for your thoughts. I had a really bad experience at CUMC/NYH, which is one of the best hospitals in the world. They missed a hernia during my gall bladder removal, and I was in pain for months afterward. St. Luke's, a community hospital, was able to diagnose and fix it. I think that it depends on the doctor you're working with and whether they listen to you. Terry's OB usually listened to her, the LICH staff sometimes did and often did not.

I hope health care isn't collapsing. I think there are a lot of dedicated personnel out there, and hopefully our national leadership will take care of it. But I'm not hopeful.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 12, 2007 12:13 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Birth Story (Part 1).

The next post in this blog is Normalcy.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34