Archive for Medicalese

Hospice and the Unknown

UnknownOn the weekly list of hospice patients and their myriad illnesses, one disease seemed to glare back at me: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

What was it? I’d never heard or read about this illness.

Later, I found this description from the Cleveland Clinic’s website:

In IPF, lung tissue becomes scarred and changes the lung’s ability to function normally. The scarring typically starts at the edges of the lungs and advances towards the center of the lungs. Typically, mild scarring occurs first, but over months to years, the normal lung tissue is replaced by more heavily scarred lung tissue, which makes it difficult to breathe and deliver needed oxygen to the body. Unfortunately, IPF is a disabling disease without a known cure and with few treatment options. The cause of IPF is unknown . . . [Italics added by me.]

After reading, I took a deep breath.

Lungs!

Air!

Life! Read More →

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Gas Exchange?

Embarrassment detours us away from knowledge. Assumptions interfere with understanding. Ignorance leads to poor decisions. And so, let’s exchange some thoughts about . . .

Gas?

I thought about these three—embarrassment, assumptions, ignorance—when I finally spent a few moments learning about a health concern that has been frequently referenced during my hospice’s weekly patient care meetings.

While reviewing patients, all of them nearing death, we mention odd words like cachexia and ascites. I eventually learned what those meant. We have discussions with health care medicalese like POLST, PRN, and SOB. The meaning behind those acronyms became second nature to me. I also didn’t have to ask a nurse or do a web search for “anticipatory grief” or a Foley catheter. There were some things I already knew!

Years ago, while attending those initial weekly meetings (officially dubbed IDGs, or InterDisciplinary Groups), I recall hearing the term “gas exchange.”

Gas exchange?

Really? Read More →

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Alert & Oriented, with Dying and Grieving

Alert and oriented might be my earliest hospice memory for describing a patient.

If a patient is alert and oriented, she’ll be able to tell you who she is, her location (“Community Hospital”), the date and time (“It’s Tuesday morning in June of 2018”), and the current president (“President Trump was elected around 2016”). While there could be additional questions, like a birthday or naming children in the patient’s family, those four are relevant and will be revealing about his/her situation.

If someone is confronted with a serious illness, would it really be fair to ask about last year’s Academy Award for best picture? Sure, film geeks may immediately recall The Shape of Water nabbed the 2017 Oscar, but even high-profile entertainment news slips and slides unnoticed into the 24/7 information overload all of us—well or sick—may easily forget. Read More →

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