Chapter 1 – Always Have Someone with You in the Hospital
This is possibly the most important piece of safety advice for a person who needs to be hospitalized. This chapter explains why it is so important, what this person can do for you, and who this person should be.
No exceptions. Well, very few exceptions. A hospitalized person will benefit from having a non-hospital-personnel person with him or her at all times. We’ll call this person your “Hospital Buddy.” Like your swimming buddy at summer camp, this is a person you choose and who chooses you, who accepts the responsibility of looking out for you, who enjoys your company, and whose company you enjoy. As a camp counselor would never let a person out into the lake without a buddy (they would have a person “triple up” with someone rather than let someone in the water alone), you should not allow yourself or your loved one to be in a hospital without a buddy.
Redundancy is routinely factored into systems to ensure safety. If one safety measure fails, the backup measure kicks in. Your car has brakes, and it also has seatbelts to keep you from being thrown from the car if your brakes fail to stop you in time to avoid hitting the deer that runs in front of your car. Your alarm clock has battery backup. Your house-wired smoke detectors have battery backup. Your Hospital Buddy is your backup safety mechanism, and a hospital is simply not a place to be without backup.
I’m a perfectly intelligent, capable person. Why do I need a backup?
As was mentioned earlier, a person in the hospital is either quite ill, or is undergoing something that has potentially serious side effects or complications. A post-surgical patient may be groggy from anesthesia or from pain medications, and may very likely not be able to think appropriately. Similarly, a sick person may very well not be in the clearest state of mind. Chemotherapy can sometimes cause unpleasant reactions – exhaustion and severe nausea and vomiting does not put someone in the best frame of mind to absorb complicated medical information. A woman who has had an uncomplicated pregnancy and has just delivered a healthy child may begin to bleed and may not be in a state to understand a potential need for emergent surgery. Someone needs to be there in the hospital to cover for you when necessary.
If it turns out that there are no acute events requiring your Hospital Buddy to step up as your backup, then you will at least have had some company, and someone to bounce things off of when you had decisions to make. It is never a waste to have had the necessary backup on hand. If you make it home from the grocery store without an accident, you generally don’t say to yourself, “What a waste it was that I had my seatbelt on.” Similarly, when you arrive at work on time, you don’t usually lament the fact that your alarm clock battery wasn’t used last night. Your Hospital Buddy is your seatbelt, or your battery backup. He or she is your personal advocate in a place where you may very well need an advocate.