T. Stewart Hamilton, M.D.
My father turned 91 ten days before his death, July 29 2002 of MRSA. Dad was old, with his share of medical problems but he exercised every day, did the crossword puzzle in ink daily and we were planning a cruise.
On May 5, 2002 he had cataract surgery. His eye was "butchered” (a quote from his third eye Dr.), causing loss of vision in that eye and his depth perception. He had to have a second eye surgery a week later to relieve the blood clot left in the eye, a result of the first surgery. Needless to say "we" went to a new Dr. Eight long, painful weeks after the first surgery he was improving enough to get ready to have a third surgery to aid his vision, hopefully.
It never occurred to either of us that a 2 1/2" cut would cause his death.
On July,17 he fell while getting up to answer the phone and hit the back of his head. The wound was tended to in his apartment by the nursing staff at Duncaster, the retirement community where he lived, while we waited for the ambulance to take him to the hospital for a few stitches.
We arrived at the ER and were put into a room immediately. All knew who Dad was and the red carpet was rolled out, which he would have hated. The ER docs wanted to rule out clots, stroke, concussion, etc. before stitching him up. His lungs were clear, no problems and no sign of infection in a urinalysis. It was a simple fall. 5 hours later a doc put in 5 staples without anesthesia. That was excruciating for my father.
The hospital wanted to keep him overnight to "rule things out". The overnight lasted 4 days. During that time he became dehydrated and needed oxygen.
He was released July, 21, on portable oxygen, to the nursing facility at Duncaster... for 12 hours. He was not getting enough oxygen. He was hallucinating and restless. I sat up with him all night. "We" returned to the hospital via ambulance in the morning. He was intabated, of his own choice. Staph infection was confirmed through urinalisis and blood test.
He was isolated in the ICU for 7 days. Each day we had hope and each day his condition worsened. The wound was the sight of the infection. The staples were removed, wound cleaned up and stitched. The ICU doc, asked to speak with me, alone, on July, 28. I knew, before he said a word, it was time to let my father go. Pop had had enough.
I waited until my sister arrived from MA the next day and I gave the orders to "pull the plug". It was about noon. He was non-communicative but a bit responsive. Each time we saw his heart rate going down one of us would whisper something to him and back he'd come. There was a part of us that thought he would surprise us and "snap out of it." Pop hung on for 4 1/5 more hours.
The death certificate and medical records state that cause of death was heart failure. The real cause of death was MRSA that his body, heart and every antibiotic in the book couldn't fight.
Eye Dr. Number 3 and I each went to the CEO of the hospital and we managed to get the hospital privileges pulled from the original, offending eye Dr. But don't worry about him; he is now an expert witness for hire.
We must do all we can to stop Hospital Acquired Infection and we must demand accountability and accurate recording of records.
My father spent his life and career working to make health care better for all.
Among his many accomplishments: He was a medical doctor and hospital administrator (of the hospital he died in) during his tenure, his hospital was one of the top 10 hospitals in the country.
He was elected president of Ct. Hospital Association and a Distinguished Service Award there has been named for him.
He was elected president of NE Hosp. Assembly, American Hospital Association and received Distinguished Service Awards both of those
He started the Capital Area Consortium of Hospitals
He received 4 Honorary Degrees
He was inducted into The Health Care Hall of Fame at the age of 88
His handling of the tragic Hartford Hospital fire in 1961 helped change fire safety laws and regulations throughout the country.
His hospital received the first Medicare check issued because of his input on the passage of that bill. He was at the signing; we have a pen
My father spent his life trying to better health care in this country and abroad. If the circumstances of his death can further patient safety in the future, that may be the final piece of his legacy.
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