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Earlier this week, we introduced you to Houston Schweitzer Fellows Don Stader and Mary Weeks, whose Ben Taub Patient Education Initiative empowers underserved patients with the knowledge to fully care for themselves once they leave the Emergency Center (EC) at Ben Taub General Hospital.

The story of Mr. G made it clear that this Schweitzer project is already having a serious impact on patient care. Today’s story of Mrs. H does the same. Names and personal information have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.

Mrs. H is a 55 year old woman who presented to the Ben Taub Emergency Center after suffering a seizure. During her seizure, Mrs. H fell and fractured her arm. During the course of her stay, the patient’s arm was splinted by orthopedic surgeons, she was seen by a neurologist, and started on antiepileptic medication.

When the patient was ready for discharge, the patient educator was informed by the primary team. During bedside education, the educator was able to address several misconceptions that could have adversely affected Mrs. H’s health. First, during discussion of discharge it was discovered that the patient — who was in considerable pain from her fractured arm — was not given any pain medications. This was addressed with the medical team, who gave the patient a prescription for Vicodin.

During education regarding the patient’s medications, it was discovered that the patient’s husband had seizures in the past and still had several bottles of Depakote and planned to share his medicines with his wife if they could not afford the prescribed antiepileptic. Depakote is a weight based medication and overdose can be potentially fatal. The patient weighed far less than her husband, and if she took his medication at the doses that he was prescribed, she would have likely experienced an adverse drug reaction.The patient was strongly discouraged from sharing her husband’s medications, and the dangers were discussed.

Finally the patient was counseled on Gold Card application. (Gold Card is the Harris County Hospital District’s medical assistance program for low-income individuals and families.) The importance of applying for a Gold Card was emphasized as a way to help pay for the patient’s medications. Mrs. H’s case demonstrates the variety of ways a patient educator can help a single patient.

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