Early on Saturday morning, the 29th of August, I was hauled down to the basement of the hospital for what I was told were, "some more X-rays." I was a little surprised by this since we had arrived with a full set of X-rays and CAT scans of all my injuries. We met the person I was later to discover was Dr. Karlson for the first time in the X-ray room. He was dressed in street clothes and was not wearing an ID badge that I could see. He did not introduce himself or explain who he was. I thought he was the weekend covering radiologist; my husband thought he was one of the residents.
Keep in mind that in addition to the broken leg, shattered elbow, head injury, and broken face and nose, I had a broken neck and back, including fragments of my C1/C2 joint that had broken off and slipped into the space where the vertebral artery passes. Dr. Karlson insisted that I remove my Aspen collar and lie down flat on an unpadded X-ray table so that he could take some more X-rays of my neck. When I protested that I was too dizzy, too nauseous, and in too much pain to lie flat, and that I had been warned by a neurosurgeon not to remove my collar, Dr. Karlson sent my husband out of the room and then advanced upon me, ripped the collar off my neck, and while I was screaming in fear and pain, pushed me down onto the unpadded X-ray table.
In response to my screams, Dr. Rivkin came pounding into the room right after this, with my husband on his heels, as I continued screaming, "Im falling, Im falling!" Dr. Rivkin told Dr. Karlson that patients with head injuries often feel they are falling with a sudden change of position. Once I saw there was another doctor in the room, I begged Dr. Rivkin, "Get him away from me, get him away from me," and Dr. Rivkin led Dr. Karlson away to another part of the room. With my husband and Dr. Rivkin there to supervise the rest of the X-ray session, I felt safe enough to let the technician finish the series.
Dr. Rivkin walked me (on a gurney) out of the room and down the hall, while performing a low-key mini-neurological exam on me, then told us hed see us upstairs in my room.
Once I returned to my room, I felt safer. Since neither my husband nor I knew that Dr. Karlson was my attending physician, we assumed we would never see him again.
Later, I had a cordial and helpful visit from Dr. Rivkin, and cheered up again.
Suddenly, Lampros Minos, whom we knew as Dr. Minos, appeared in my room, saying he had some forms for me to sign. These, it turned out, were consent forms for my elbow surgery and the surgeon listed on the sheet was Dr. Karlson. Stunned, I gawped at Minos as he explained that I would need to agree to general anesthesia, a bone graft and to allow Dr. Karlson to "advance my triceps", which would mean that I would never be able to bend my left arm all the way again. As I continued to gawp at Lampros Minos, he began to get even more nervous than he had been before. Minos attempted to make a clumsy and inaccurate drawing of my elbow joint, but had difficulty rendering the picture. Finally, at a break in his monologue I asked him, "this Dr. Karlson, is he the guy from the X-ray room?" Minos said yes. After a quick glance at my husband to confirm that we were both on the same page about this, I told Minos quietly and politely, "I refuse to have this surgery with this surgeon."
Lampros Minos lost it immediately. He began flapping his arms, waving paperwork in my face as I lay in my bed and berating me, "What are you going to do? Are you going to leave the hospital? Where do you think youre going?" I was as baffled by his reaction as I could be. Why would he assume I was leaving the Baptist just because I refused to let James Karlson operate on me? The place was full of orthopedists.
This was my first warning that once I had refused to be operated on by a physician from ProSports Orthopedics I was forfeiting my right to receive medical care there at all, despite how injured I was. In my innocence and optimism, I thought that another doctor at the Baptist would be willing to performing my surgery, or that I would at the very least be permitted to transfer to another hospital. Little did I know.
I was at that time a flexible and adaptable person, and I partly got over the shock of discovering that I had been headed for surgery with an abusive automaton who did not seem to understand that I had a broken neck. In the early afternoon, I received a visit from the two spine guys, Dr. Parazin and Dr. Jenis. Dr. Parazin was a big, bluff, friendly guy and Dr. Jenis was friendly also. They examined my neck and back in detail, looked at my X-rays and CAT scans, gave me advice, and arranged for me to get a second neck brace that wouldnt dig into the bruise and contusion on the back of my head as much as the one I was wearing.
A little while after they left, a very young nervous-looking nurse came into my room. I had never seen her before, and no, I never saw her again after this incident. She was carrying a bowl with some instruments in it. I asked her why she had come. She said she had been sent by Dr. Karlson to remove my bladder catheter. Both my husband and I found this surprising, to say the least, since I had no sense of balance, could not even sit up straight in bed without flopping over randomly to one side or the other, could not use crutches because of my unrepaired broken elbow, and could not walk more than a few steps. Since my teeth were all broken and my throat was swollen, I was living entirely on liquids. "She cant walk," my husband said to the nurse. "How is she supposed to go to the bathroom?" The nurse replied that perhaps I could use a bed pan. "My neck is broken," I replied, "and my back, as well as one leg and one arm. How am I supposed to do that?" I asked her. She replied that she didnt know, "but these are Dr. Karlsons orders, and I have to follow them." She did not look happy when she said this, and she made no attempt to talk me into allowing her to remove the catheter.
One of the things I had learned during my days in the ICU in Idaho Falls is that The Nurses Know Everything. They have ways of informing you, subtly, about what as a hospital patient is a good idea or not. Even with a head injury, I could tell from her expression that she thought this was a bad idea, too.
I told her, "Well, I refuse to have my catheter removed, and tell Dr. Karlson that I want to speak to him about this." She smiled for the first time since she came into my room, sagged a little with relief and left much happier than when she entered. I never saw her again.
This attempt to remove my bladder catheter struck both my husband and myself at the time as an act of retaliation on Dr. Karlsons part and we have never learned anything in the intervening time to change our opinion of this incident. Dr. Karlsons attempt to have my bladder catheter removed was never recorded in my medical record at all. Dr. Karlson's attorney later denied that he ever tried to have my bladder catheter removed. By the time of the depositions, though, after we had considered hiring a private detective to find this nurse, Dr. Karlsons story had changed, and he subsequently swore that he did not recall if he had ordered my bladder catheter removed.
This was the third scary thing that had happened to me that day, and it was only mid-afternoon. I never really felt safe again after this incident. We waited and waited to hear from Dr. Karlson as we had requested, but we did not hear from him or see him at all for the rest of the day. Even though he was my attending physician, Dr. Karlson never examined me that day or any other day. The pain assesment performed that day showed that my pain was not being managed adequately, but neither Lampros Minos or Dr. Karlson changed or increased my pain medication. The pain medication orders written up by Lampros Minos were not for enough pain medication to keep me even somewhat comfortable once the Demerol I had gotten the day before fully wore off.
That night, I awoke screaming in fear and utterly disoriented. I had been having a nightmare that Dr. Karlson was choking me to death with his hands. Though this incident is recorded in the nursing logs, no one wrote down the contents of my nightmare or otherwise acted on this incident. I never had nightmares when I was in Idaho and I never had them in any hospital after I left the Baptist, either.