Vail Daily column: First do no harm |

Vail Daily column: First do no harm

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

Recently my 97-year old father-in-law had his hip replaced after a fall at our home. We called 911 and the response was outstanding. The paramedics took him to Vail Valley Medical Center where he had late-night surgery — again, the patient care my father-in-law received was simply outstanding.

After surgery we took Mort to the Castle Peak Senior Care Facility in Eagle to begin his rehab. And, while I believe a senior care facility is a necessity for the valley, this facility has more than a few bugs to work out.

During the admissions process, neither my father-in-law nor my wife and I were given an orientation as to the daily schedule, the facility’s procedures, doctor visits, physical therapy sessions, medications, meals, laundry, TV, Wi-Fi, showering, call button protocols, or anything else, for that matter.

Castle Peak staff also failed to deliver several meals, answer the patient call-button timely (more on that later) and misplaced his laundry. When advised of this, Dan Shields, the campus administrator, acknowledged that the admissions and orientation process were handled poorly and to compensate he removed one night’s stay from the charges. Unfortunately, Mr. Shield’s goodwill went for naught, as you will see.

Numerous individuals, including the county proper have put an enormous amount of time and energy to bring this facility to the valley …

As is common after surgery, my father-in-law was given compression stockings at the hospital and was wearing them when admitted to Castle Peak. But after being assisted to take his first shower, no one thought to put his compression stockings back on.

Later, while my wife, Bobbi, was visiting, she noticed that her father, Mort, wasn’t wearing the stockings, so she put them back on her father’s legs. Because the Castle Peak nurses weren’t using the stockings, Bobbi asked the director of health services if it was still necessary that her father wear them. The director’s response was, and I quote, “I have no idea,” so Bobbi asked her to contact the surgeon and find out.

The next day, Mort’s compression stockings were again on the chair. The director of health services had neglected to call the surgeon’s office to ascertain if they were still necessary. In the absence of specific instructions Bobbi chose “rather safe than sorry” and put the stockings back on her father’s legs and then called the surgeon’s office herself. A member of Vail Summit Orthopedics’ staff told her, “Yes, he absolutely should wear them for two to six weeks.”

I don’t have a medical degree but it’s my understanding the reason for wearing compression stockings after surgery is to improve blood flow to the legs and to help prevent leg swelling and blood clots. Why it took four days for either the director of health services or Castle Peak’s doctor to contact the surgeon is a question only they can answer — nonetheless, had Bobbi not been there to put those stocking back on her father’s legs every day, who knows what might have happened to a 97-year old post-op patient.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Late on my father-in-law’s second night at the facility, he had to relieve himself but couldn’t locate his bedside urinal. After repeated attempts to get a nurse’s attention using the call button his situation was becoming desperate, so he began shouting for someone, anyone, to help him.

When no one came, Mort pulled himself out of bed (something he was instructed not to do without assistance) and managed to grab the walker we bought at Wal-Mart earlier that day (Castle Peak did not provide one.) Fortunately, Mort was able to get to the bathroom using the walker, but I can’t help but wonder what if he had fallen and couldn’t get himself up?

On another occasion, after one of the staff helped Mort onto the shower, the individual left and failed to return, leaving Mort in the bathroom for 20 to 25 minutes before someone finally showed up to open the sliding door to let him out.

On his third day at the facility, an elderly gentleman from the next room was having some type of difficulty. The man was in his wheelchair shouting for help. When no one responded, Mort began pressing his call button to get assistance.

With no response to the call button, Bobbi left her father’s bedside side and went to look for someone to attend to this man.

After searching the hallways for about five minutes Bobbi finally found a nurse to assist. The next day both Mort and Bobbi told me this man had been hacking and coughing all day, begging the question, what if he had been choking?

Numerous individuals, including the county proper have put an enormous amount of time and energy to bring this facility to the valley, and perhaps our experiences were aberrations.

But aberrations or not, if a similar situation were to present itself today, then you can be assured Bobbi and I would find a way to take my father-in-law, or anyone else for that matter, down to a Denver rehab facility.

Quote of the Day: “Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” — Hippocrates

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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