Terrifying Brush With Death Drives Doctor To Fight For Patients
The ordeal opened her eyes to communication lapses, uncoordinated care and at times a total lack of empathy.
This article first appeared January 02, 2018 on Kaiser Health News.
The searing abdominal pain came on suddenly while Dr. Rana Awdish was having dinner with a friend. Soon she was lying in the back seat of the car racing to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where Awdish was completing a fellowship in critical care.
On that night nearly a decade ago, a benign tumor in Awdish’s liver burst, causing a cascade of medical catastrophes that nearly killed her. She nearly bled to death. She was seven months pregnant at the time, and the baby did not survive. She had a stroke and, over the days and weeks to come, suffered multiple organ failures. She required several surgeries and months of rehabilitation to learn to walk and speak again.
Helpless, lying on a gurney in the hospital’s labor and delivery area that first night, Awdish willed the medical staff to see her as a person rather than an interesting case of what she termed “Abdominal Pain and Fetal Demise.” But their medical training to remain clinically detached worked against her. Later, in the intensive care unit, she overheard her case being discussed by the surgical resident during morning rounds.
“She’s been trying to die on us,” he said. It made her angry, she said, because she was trying desperately not to die. “I felt he was positing me as an adversary. If my care team didn’t believe in me, what possible hope did I have?”