Today’s post is from guest blogger Terry Orzechowski, Executive Director of Patient Experience and Ombudsman at Children’s National Medical Center.
Eighteen years ago, I came home from work on a summer day to find my oldest son, Daniel, complaining of chest pains. He said he felt like his heart was beating too fast. I placed my hand on his chest and found it was racing. He was seventeen years old.
I didn’t even call 911. Immediately I put him in the car and drove as fast as I could to the emergency room at Children’s National Medical Center. They had him in a bed and working on him within three minutes of our arrival. The emergency room staff allowed me to stay with Daniel until they needed to shock his heart to stabilize the rhythm, before transferring him to intensive care for further treatment. They directed me to the waiting room then.
As Daniel’s heart raced, so did my mind. My husband had just boarded a plane for business travel and had no idea what was going on. Our younger son and daughter were still at the pool and would also need to be informed, without worrying them. As I waited and worried about my son, a resident who had been in the room as Daniel was treated joined me in the waiting room. He said he knew this was scary. He said he’d sit with me until the doctors came out. I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget that he took time to be there with me.
Daniel was found to have Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition present from birth that leads to increased heart rhythms. Although his case was challenging, his treatment worked well. He had a cardiac ablation, a catheterization process, and didn’t require a pacemaker or medication to keep the rhythm steady.
Daniel also had understanding doctors who worked with him that summer to monitor his heart, keeping in mind they were dealing with a teenage boy. Dan was about to enter his junior year in high school. No one that age wants to walk around with anything indicating they have a medical condition. Dr. (Jeffrey) Moak worked with him about the timing for wearing a heart monitor. He and all the staff at the hospital really treated my son with respect.
Today, Daniel is 35 years old and well, with two sons of his own.
Our experience at Children’s had a profound impact on me. So did subsequent trips to the hospital for my younger son to be treated for asthma and an immune deficiency. I wondered if I could ever be lucky enough to work for Children’s. A couple of years later, I opened up the classified ads and job listings and spotted the Children’s logo right away. I eagerly applied to be director of volunteers at the hospital, and was hired for the job. Fifteen years later, I’m now Executive Director of Patient Experience and Ombudsman.
I’ve been a parent sitting in the waiting room, waiting for test results to find out what’s wrong with my child. That’s always on my mind as I encounter other parents who bring their children to the hospital.
The experience of how parents and their children are treated at Children’s is equal to the quality of the medical treatment they receive. And that makes such a difference. They care what we know, but they also care that we care.
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