My mother was horrified when a hospital failed to remove gauze from her surgical site following a procedure

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I witnessed firsthand; used with permission.

My mother underwent surgery earlier this year. The surgery was successful, and she has fully recovered. However, the day of the surgery didn't run quite as smoothly as her recovery.

The surgeon scheduled the surgery as an in-patient procedure with an overnight hospital stay. Because of a shortage of beds, the surgeon changed the surgery to an outpatient procedure.

My mother was uncomfortable with coming home immediately following an invasive surgical procedure, but it was better than the alternative of not having the surgery at all. She had already postponed the procedure several times over the last few years, and this time, it was urgent.

She agreed to have the surgery performed as an outpatient procedure.

My mother arrived at the hospital on the day of the surgery at 8 a.m. for her 9 a.m. appointment. Nurses prepped her for surgery and then left her alone in a room for hours. She ended up going into surgery a full eight hours later.

The only good thing that came out of the later surgery was that the doctor kept my mother in the hospital overnight since she wouldn't be able to spend a good amount of time in the recovery room otherwise.

Fortunately, there were beds available.

The following morning, a nurse told my mother she was being discharged. The nurse would prepare the discharge paperwork, and then my mother could leave.

My mother was more than happy to go home by then. She waited patiently for her discharge paperwork to arrive. It did, eight hours later.

Finally, the nurse returned to bring my mother her paperwork, remove her IV, and help her get dressed. She discussed my mother's aftercare instructions, including several new medications that the doctor had prescribed.

Unfortunately, there was one thing the nurse didn't do.

She didn't check my mother's surgical site, which was packed with unsanitary day-old gauze that should have been removed that morning.

I picked up my mother and drove her home. It wasn't until twenty-four hours later that I took a peek at her surgical site. "What is that? I asked. Is that gauze?" I inspected the area with a flashlight. "Yup. That's gauze."

My mother looked horrified. "They didn't say anything about gauze," she said. She had a scheduled follow-up appointment in two weeks. Two weeks seemed like an awfully long time to keep the same dirty gauze packed into a surgical site.

I called the doctor's office, but the doctor had already gone home for the day.

A nurse at the doctor's office contacted the doctor and then called me back. "The doctor said she's very sorry that happened to your mother," she said. "The discharge nurse at the hospital was supposed to remove the gauze before she went home yesterday. Can you bring your mother into the office immediately to have it removed?"

We drove to the doctor's office where a nurse practitioner examined my mother. "I don't want to remove the gauze because I don't know if the doctor left it there on purpose," she repeated to herself while frowning at my mother's surgical site.

"Well, the nurse already talked to the doctor, and the doctor said she was sorry it happened and asked us to come into the office right away, so I am guessing she didn't want it there," I told her.

She gave me a dirty look and continued musing aloud for several minutes before removing a good three-foot-long section of used gauze from the area.

My mother's surgery was a complete success, and she has healed completely. The gauze incident didn't continue to bother her once we resolved it. "Everyone makes mistakes," she said. "I'm just lucky everything went as well as it did."

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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