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Health & Fitness Special Section The Altamont Enterprise, January 26, 2006
Doctor and nurse share medical knowledge in new book
By Nicole Fay Barr
GUILDERLAND Most people are intimidated by hospitals and doctors, says Lynne Golonka. So, she and her husband wrote a book to prepare people for hospital stays and to provide them with questions to ask and basic medical knowledge.
"Most people go in the hospital very inactive," Golonka said. "They don’t know what to ask. People should be knowledgeable about their care. This book will lessen their anxiety."
The retired Guilderland couple knows the medical profession. Lynne Golonka was a nurse, nursing teacher, mediator, and counselor. Dr. Joseph Golonka worked in internal medicine and endocrinology, and as a medical director at an insurance company.
Their book, Hospital Battlefield: A Field Manual for Survival, uses the metaphor that patients are soldiers.
"You are literally in a battle for your life and you need to rally all of your resources cognitive, emotional, and communicative skills for success," Lynne Golonka wrote. "Soldiers approaching a battle do it carefully, are well trained, and are always fully aware of the great danger they face."
"The book stresses that you accept that you’re vulnerable, but not helpless," she said.
This is why she used the solider metaphor, she said. Soldiers are prepared for war, but are still vulnerable when thrown into a combat situation, she said.
The book is divided into four sections. Lynne Golonka wrote the first three "Preparation for Battle," "Deployment," and "Engagement." Joseph Golonka wrote the last part, "Being Shipped Home," which is mostly about dealing with insurance companies.
Lynne Golonka got the idea for the book a couple of years ago, she said, when she thought of how frightening it was that so many medical errors are made.
"Every time I pick up the paper, I see accidents, error reports, deaths that occur in hospitals," Golonka said. "You don’t have to know everything about medicine to be safe. You just have to know your rights and how you should be treated."
"I wanted it to be readable," Lynne Golonka said. So, she said, the book is "not overwhelmed with text." It is interspersed with questions and illustrated with cartoons.
Throughout the book, in italic font, are questions that patients should ask of hospital staff.
"It’s so people can be safe in the hospital," Lynne Golonka said. "People always say, ‘Ask questions.’ This book is designed with example questions."
The questions, she said, force doctors and nurses to think more about what theyre doing, rather than get locked into a routine.
The book helps patients establish a dialogue with the hospital staff, she said. Shes highlighted in the book the medical procedures that the majority of people will face, she said.
Hospital Battlefield includes stories about patients the Golonkas have known.
"It also brings in the role of family," Joseph Golonka said.
"The patient is not always capable of making decisions," Lynne Golonka said. "This uses the team approach for safety. The enemy is the illness, not the staff. Real change comes from the bedside."
Along with questions, the book tells patients how to ask them, so as not to offend a doctor or nurse. For example, it says, "I know I seem obsessive-compulsive about germs, but all the stories I’ve read are scary. Please wipe off the stethoscope before you use it."
For patients that don’t understand what’s happening, a sample question is, "In order to get well, I need to know what you’re saying, and I don’t understand...Please explain it to me. It’s still unclear, let me write it down."
Asked what audience the book is geared toward, Golonka said its for everyone. Its for older people who are more likely to be admitted to the hospital and younger people who dont think they will, but can have accidents.
"People who’ve had experience with hospitals will know instantly they should read this book," she said.
While the Golonkas haven’t had much experience with hospitalization themselves, Lynne Golonka said, "We’ve seen the health-care system from that dimension."
The Golonkas then told a pregnant reporter about how to prepare for childbirth in a hospital.
"Check the safety record of the OB department," said Lynne Golonka of the obstetrics unit. "Ask if there’s been any infections in the nursery and what they do to prevent infections. Ask if your doctor will do the delivery and not interns or residents."
She added that expectant mothers should ask their obstetricians how many babies theyve delivered; how many of those babies have been healthy; and why they got into the field.
"Consumers need to ask questions; that’s the only way accountability occurs," Golonka said.
The couple have been married for 45 years; they have six children and 19 grandchildren.
Joseph Golonka retired in June and Lynne Golonka still does mediation.
"I like to think we bring wisdom to the book," Lynne Golonka said. "We’ve gotten to watch the system in action."
It took them two years to write the book, the couple said. It was published by authorhouse.com, a self-publishing company. The book can be purchased on the website.
It was difficult to write, Lynne Golonka said, because she had to set her own deadlines.
"The whole process was very interesting," she said. "As a new author, big publishing companies aren’t interested in you. Through authorhouse.com, we were able to control what we wanted to go in the book. It was a very interesting journey."
Lynne Golonka was able to edit the changes to her book several times, she said. She also chose the design for the cover of the book.
"My husband read every word of it and proofread it," she said. "We’re very pleased and proud of it."
She did the same for the last section of the book, which Joseph Golonka wrote.
"Mack read and approved of it, too," Joseph Golonka said, referring to the friendly family dog that he played with during the interview; Mack is featured on the book jacket with the Golonkas.
"It’s a revolutionary book," Lynne Golonka concluded. "We’re talking about change from the bedside up, as opposed to from the hospital down."
Yu writes to guide patients,