Archive for Medicalese

Sometimes (talking about) Death Gets Stuck in Our Throats

Have you ever heard someone react to a comment by responding, “That sounds Greek to me!”

In other words, we don’t comprehend the word or the statement. It doesn’t make sense.

That’s what I first thought about dysphagia when I started hearing it in hospice.

Huh? What?

In the case of dysphagia, it’s literally a Greek word and problematic to pronounce (dis-fay-gee-a) for most folks. The roots of the word are relatively simple. Dys is a prefix for, “No.” Think of the more commonly used dysfunctional or—because of the Hunger Games novels and their ilk—a grim, unsettling future world known as a dystopia.

Dysfunction = no function.

Dystopia = no good place.

The suffix phagia, though obscure and probably never used in our day-to-day conversations, also describes a familiar activity: eating. Medical professionals use dysphagia to identify patients that have difficulty with swallowing. In other words . . .

Dysphagia = no eating. Read More →

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Drugs, Doses, Dread & Delivery Options

pills

Around breakfast time, I usually shake out several pills into the palm of my hand . . .

The nurse arrived and sat beside my mother in the dimly lit hospital room.

One of the first things he said was, “This won’t hurt.”

He lied.

He was there to place a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC, or “pick”) into Mom’s upper right arm. She’d been offered Dilaudid—a brand name for hydromorphone, a narcotic stronger than morphine—for pain management. The medication would be housed in a CADD pump (Computerized Ambulatory Drug Delivery) connected to her PICC line. The linked pump and the catheter would give a predetermined, regular amount of medication to ease her physical agony. A “button” could be pressed on the CADD pump for additional dosages.

Are your eyes glazing over with all the medicalese?

Mom’s body was riddled with cancer and the two surgeries undertaken to “relieve” discomfort had added complications. As I calmly write this three years after her death, I understand why she said “Yes” to that PICC line: she wanted the wrenching pain to end and she was ready to die.

But the nurse, who seemed rightly weary in the near midnight hour when he entered Mom’s room, first caused more pain.

He swabbed her arm with disinfectant and inserted a needle.

She grimaced.

I held her left hand. Watching her tore my heart apart. Read More →

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Hospice & HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could also be labeled big and cumbersome . . . but don’t get in its way either!

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could also be labeled big and cumbersome . . . but don’t get in its way either!

When saying or hearing HIPAA, I sometimes imagine a hippo.

The hippopotamus—“water horse” from the Greek—is the third largest land animal. It’s cumbersome, thick-skinned, and appears to have been created by a committee forced into decisions before a deadline eliminated funding. The native-to-Africa beast is remarkably fast, whether running or swimming . . . so don’t linger if a hippo heads in your direction!

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could also be labeled big and cumbersome . . . but don’t get in its way either!

HIPAA irks me. I rarely remember the letters creating the acronym: HIPPA, HPPA, or HIPAH? And I usually fail to correctly identify what the letters stand for. Doesn’t the “I” mean Information and shouldn’t the “P” be for Patient? Why, please, was the awkward “portability” ever considered as a useful word for the average consumer? Read More →

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