As I mentioned yesterday, my Mom broke her right humerus (upper arm, quite near her shoulder) on May 27, 2006, in a fall from a ladder while she was washing walls. (For all the details of the accident, please see this prior post. My Mom was remarkable.)

Mom’s accident happened in the morning. As was her nature, she didn’t want to believe she’d sustained any serious damage, so she got herself up, took a couple of Advil, and laid down in an effort to alleviate the pain. It didn’t work, and shortly after, she called over to her next door neighbor to ask if she could take her to the hospital. No ambulance for my mother . . .

Barbara, Mom’s neighbor, drove her the 25+ miles to Riverside Tappahannock Hospital. Barbara had to leave for another commitment, and Mom, 88 and in significant pain, sat in the waiting room for over 5 hours before she was seen by a doctor. When she was finally seen, the doctor had x-rays taken, told her the bad news of her fracture, wrapped her up to immobilize her arm, and sent her on her way with instructions to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. She did get a prescription for pain meds. She called her other next door neighbor for a ride home.

I hope it was because Mom exuded competence and confidence, and rejected further help — but to the best of my knowledge, the hospital didn’t seem concerned that this right-handed elderly woman, living along, was going to her home where she lived alone.

On Sunday night, during our regular 8:00 pm call, Mom told me of her mishap the day before. Don & I had a quick discussion, and I called her back to let her know I’d drive down the following day, and would be there the following evening.

Monday was a US holiday, Memorial Day. On Monday night, I found Mom bruised and in pain, with her arm and shoulder completely immobilized. At that point, we could not take off the wrapping. Tuesday morning, I called the Orthopedic Surgeon. I was promised a call back to see when he could see Mom, but his office did not call back. That afternoon, I called again. They informed me that they had reviewed the x-ray, and that the doctor didn’t need to see her until Thursday afternoon. I explained that I didn’t know what I was doing, that she was in pain. I pleaded that she should be seen that day rather than wait a full 5 days after her accident. I got nowhere, except to get another prescription for pain medication. Even that was less than comforting, as the doctor had not yet even seen Mom before issuing her prescriptions.

We finally got her into the orthopedic surgeon on Thursday, June 1. He immediately advised against the type of bandage that the emergency room had applied. He x-rayed her, told her that if she’d been younger he would recommend surgery to insert a rod, but given her age she’d have to adjust not being able to raise her hand over her head. He gave her a must less restrictive sling, called a “collar & cuff”, and sent us on our way.

Her next appointment with the doctor was not for another 2 weeks, then another in mid-July, or 6 weeks post-accident. It was at her mid-July appointment that the doctor referred her to physical therapy.

Ultimately, she recovered well. Her bruised shoulder, chest and back lasted months, but she perservered and eventually was able to lift her hand over her head, enabling her to use her curling iron and hang out cloths (her main goals).

Her emergency care, however, left something to be desired. She should not have had to wait for hours and hours at the emergency room. She should not have had to wait for 5 days before seeing an orthopedic surgeon. She should have been given some home-care advice.

I appreciate that Mom’s and my injuries weren’t identical, or even similar. But I do believe that overall, I received better emergency care than my mother.