Saturday, February 03, 2007

Coming To Grips With Confusion

I was utterly astonished by what happened with the elementary school on Friday.

Last Friday (one week ago), Sonshine had an asthma attack at school. The school called me and said they could not give him his inhaler because it hadn't been four hours since the last administration of the inhaler. I ended up taking him to the ER, where they just gave him albuterol (which I could have done at home) and told me that it was OK to give him albuterol more often than once every four hours. I then remembered that the signed doctor's orders given to the school did originally say "every four hours as needed" and that the school nurse was confused by that and had called the doctor for clarification. But I remembered she'd asked him whether that meant "every four hours" or "only as needed", which he had clarified as meaning that he was to be given albuterol every four hours whether he needed it or not, but I don't think it was made clear to her that he was to have albuterol if he got into an asthma attack, whether it had been four hours since his last attack or not.

You would think it would be clear to a reasonable person that the doctor's orders could be interpreted as saying that a child having an asthma attack should have his inhaler. You would especially think that this would be clear to a person who's dealt with a group of 800 children, among whom there surely must be at least half a dozen asthmatics. You'd think someone like that would be reasonably aware that asthma attacks can be life-threatening and that timely treatment is the key to preventing it from becoming a huge problem.

Unfortunately the word "reasonable" applies to the People's RePublic Schools about as much as the word "tasty" applies to industrial petroleum byproducts.

On Wednesday I kept Sonshine home entirely because he was having asthma attacks all day and I didn't want to send him to school if they weren't going to give him his meds.

This past Friday, Sonshine had another asthma attack about two hours after his scheduled inhaler treatment, and again the school called me to come get him. But this time I couldn't get there right away. So I asked them to give him his inhaler until I could get there, and they said no. I asked if I could give permission for them to do that, and they said no. I pointed out that the orders did say "as needed" and they said they didn't, but they obviously weren't reading the orders. Fine; the world is full of legal crap. But then I asked them if the doctor were to call them and tell them it was OK to give him the inhaler, would they give it to him?

They said NO.

I was astonished. I asked who could call them up and give them permission, and they said they would accept permission in the form of another signed three-page set of doctor's orders... or I could come down to the school.

I'm sorry, but this is more bullcrap than is contained in ANY rural manure pile. My son is wheezing ten feet away from his medication, and they want a frickin' form signed in triplicate.

They put me on to talk to the principal. I insisted she get out an actual copy of the orders and actually read them, not just go by what she thinks she remembers about them. She did read the words "as needed" and I insisted that she had to give him his inhaler, and she said no. I asked why I was good enough to come down and give him his inhaler, but not good enough to ask them to do it for me. I finally got her to agree that if the doctor called and said it was OK, that they would give him the inhaler. But the doctor was at his other office location and it took a while to track him down, and by that time the attack had passed on its own. My son wheezed for nearly half an hour and they sat on their useless @$$es and did NOTHING because they are more devoted to their stupid lawyer-approved bureaucracy and paperwork than to the actual students in their school.

Someone suggested that maybe they wouldn't give the inhaler because they feared a lawsuit if they gave it and there were side effects. If this is the case, then they are phenomenally stupid risk managers, because if it were me, I'd be more concerned about a lawsuit if I didn't administer the medication and the kid died in the office as a result of his airway closing. Someone else suggested that they aren't qualified to make a medical judgement call. But I would argue that by refusing to administer the medication, that's precisely what they were doing: deciding that whatever negative consequence they attribute to administering the meds outweighs the risk that my son would have died or had a horrible outcome. If that isn't a judgment call, I don't know what is.

The only conclusion I can come to logically at this point is that either the office staff is all by some coincidence phenomenally, droolingly moronic; or that they are so devoted to being bureaucratic seat covers that they have lost their minds.