I went to the ER today for a severe Ulcerative Colitis flare. It was awful and I was in a terrible amount of pain. Usually the Hospital I go to is really good. I drive an extra fifteen minutes JUST because that one usually treats me well and doesn’t accidentally give me the wrong medication or have incompetent asshole doctors. I must have done a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THING and deserve Karma to kick my ass up and down the block because today was so painful.
One of my doctors, lets call him Dr. Asshat, instructed me to take Motrin for my pain even though I am NOT allowed to have it, at all, ever. It causes me to have a flare and its VERY dangerous when you have chronic GI conditions. After fighting with him back and forth, it became obvious that he wanted me to take it SO I would have a flare because he didn’t believe that it really wasn’t a pain management option for me. I felt trapped and finally agreed to take it so he’d listen to me. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have left his office and never went back.
I’m having a severe flare and vomiting blood. The pain is unbearable. I checked in and explained everything to the triage nurse who said they didn’t have a free bed and they’d get to me as soon as possible. I waited for two hours, in agony, and had to rush to the restroom to vomit or have dry heaves or other unpleasant experiences that you don’t want to have in a public bathroom every fifteen minutes. Periodically I’d ask the Registration Nurse how much longer, or let them know I was vomiting a lot of blood, or starting to black out from pain and she would unsympathetically sigh and say “I’ll let them know”. Pretty sure she didn’t tell “them” anything. People that went back to the ER before me included a middle aged woman who was eating a family size bag of Fritos, a gentlemen who loudly explained that his “junk was crawlin’ something fierce” following a series of romantic encounters he may or may not have paid to enjoy, a toddler with an ear infection, an elderly gentleman with a UTI (he seemed so miserable, I do not begrudge him earlier entry) a twenty something gal who had a seizure (legit) a fifty something woman who was itchy and didn’t know the cause, and a forty something gentleman who had stopped at Panera for a soup, salad, sandwich, lemonade and cookie, all of which he ate in the time it took me to throw up twice. Yeah, I feel like I maybe should have gone back before some of those people, but they didn’t feel the same way.
When I’m in a lot of pain, for a long time, I start to panic. I start to feel like the pain will never stop, relief isn’t coming and there is no way out. When its a LOT of pain I become a caged animal. Panic sets in and I’ll do anything to make it stop. I became very fearful that it wasn’t going to get better, and that for some reason the staff didn’t want to treat me. That wasn’t a reasonable thought, but I wasn’t in a reasonable place. In reality they were a bit busy, not slammed, but busy enough that there was a wait and worse, the A and B team were off today. The staff currently working were C and D level players, AT BEST. Compassion and empathy were qualities they did not possess.
Toward the end of my wait a man in his late twenties came in with his wife. She was in a wheelchair, and was very disheveled. Her hair had been carefully styled at some point, but she had what looked like after sex hair. Runny mascara marred her cheeks and her mouth was hanging open. She was staring off into the distance but didn’t seem to actually see anything. Her husband was frantic. She had collapsed while making their lunch and had a seizure. She’d bitten her tongue during and there was blood down the front of her chin and on her clothes. Her husband stated she’d never had a seizure before and she wasn’t really coming around from it. The Nurse at reception was… cavalier. She was not concerned whatsoever. She suggested the husband wheel his wife over to the sitting area and wait patiently. He is clearly a fantastic husband because he said “Absolutely not. I want her taken back NOW.” The nurse said they were busy and they’d get to her as quickly as they could. He refused. She’d never had a seizure before and he had never seen one in person. When she was on the floor writhing he put his hand in her mouth to try to keep her from further injuring her bleeding tongue. The Nurse said, “Ugh, don’t do that. You’re not supposed to put your hand in during a seizure.” Lets take a moment. The Nurse was right, you’re NOT supposed to do that. However, telling him that is of NO HELP to him at this point. And her snotty little noises were not appropriate. They bantered back and forth a bit and finally when the wife couldn’t focus or say anything other than “I don’t know what happened” she finally called back to have someone come get her and take her back immediately. He didn’t move from the desk. After several minutes, no one came. (Thats the theme for the day) He asked her to call back and tell them to hurry. She refused, saying they just needed more time. After several more minutes he started searching for his phone. He’d left it in the car. He asked if he could use their phone, and stood RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DESK and called 911 for an ambulance. The Nurse freaked out and hung up the phone before he could complete his request. He told her if she didn’t get someone up there for his wife RIGHT NOW he’d borrow a phone from one of the people in the waiting room and call an ambulance. I got my phone out, and waived it in the air for a second, nodded at him, and put it on my lap. I was to the side, so the Nurse didn’t see me, but he did. Other people pulled their phones out too. Finally she made sure someone came out. He said to her “You need to work on your people skills and bedside manner.” I didn’t see them again, but I think that husband was a FUCKING HERO. He made damn sure they took care of his wife.
So hours after I walked in I was finally shown to a room. It was busy but not slammed. The Nurse left and I waited for the Doctor. The Doctor, Dr. NicenBald, agreed that it was likely a Colitis flare and I needed fluids, pain and nausea medication, and to go home with some antibiotics and steroids as well. Dr NicenBald said he’d put the order in and get me medication right away. The registrar came in as he was leaving and collected my $75 copay. After that I waited for twenty five minutes in sheer dry heaving agony before finally hitting the nurse call button and telling the speaker that it had been twenty five minutes and no one had come in so I must have been forgotten. A nurse came in and was super annoyed with me. He said no one had forgotten me, that I should be patient and not pester them complaining about how long it was taking. THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SIGN. Another fifteen minutes later my nurse, we’ll call him Hairdo for obvious reasons, finally showed and remarked about how terrible my veins were and grabbed an ultra sound machine to put in an IV. I know, it sounds weird, but some people are vein challenged, and they have to use a portable ultra sound and special needle to get an IV. He tried to get an IV but it didn’t take and he shouted out to the nurse in the hall to grab him another IV set up. This is where I start to realize that this is not going to go well. AT. ALL. The nurse in the hall tells Hairdo that there are no more of those IVs. They’re on back order. Let me repeat that. I’m sitting in an ER and they ran out of IVs. FUCK. She says shes going to call upstairs and see if they have any. Hairdo leaves while grumbling about how annoyed he is that I need the special IV and what did I do to myself to make it so I couldn’t get a regular IV. Another ten minutes or so later another nurse, Bearcub, (Again, OBVIOUS REASONS) has miraculously found another special IV and gets a vein. Bearcub realizes Hairdo still has my medication in his pockets and has to track him down to get it to me, which he does immediately. So an HOUR and ELEVEN MINUTES after the Doctor had rushed out to put orders in so I could have immediate relief I got a dose of Dilaudid. I begged Bearcub to stay and he assured me I’d be taken care of. I wasn’t as confident in that statement as he was. I was in so much pain, ten minutes later I paged a nurse and told them it was still awful, and ANOTHER Nurse, Granny, came in and gave me more Dilaudid. I waited for them to hang the bag of fluid, but no one did. It just sat on the counter during my entire stay. I had CT scans and when I returned a new nurse, Hipster Beard, said they wanted urine. I pointed out that I was dehydrated from vomiting all day and no one had hung my fluids in the several hours I’d been there so I doubted I could get enough urine to satisfy him. Hipster Beard scoffs at me and asks if I’m refusing to try. I give in. My pain was getting more severe, so I paged the nurse asking for more medication. A NEW Doctor, Dr. Douche, (Pronounced DOOCHE-EE. From the French.) tells me Dr. NicenBald has left and Dr. Douche is now handling me. He gives me the speech of what is wrong with me, and what I need to do, and tells me hes waiting for the blood tests to confirm and he’ll get back to me after he checks them what meds I usually take for this. (Fast Forward: he never came back and I ended up with one medication I AM ALLERGIC TO.) It had been fifteen minutes since I’d asked for more pain medication and no nurse had bothered to show up. I paged again. Fifteen minutes later, I paged again. At this point I was crying. Not just from pain, but frustration and desperation. I was stuck getting sub par treatment and I couldn’t leave. Pain and Panic. I cried into the speaker to the Nurse listening, “PLEASE help me. I’ve paged over and over for forty five minutes asking for more pain medication and I don’t understand why NO ONE COMES. Have I offended the nurse? Did I do something wrong?” More crying. The poor girl sounded mortified and tried to reassure me that the did indeed give a shit and someone would be right there. Roughly five minutes later Hairdo shows up with zero fucks and more pain medication. He tells me Dr. Douche is writing my discharge paperwork, which is slightly disconcerting because we were going to discuss which medication I wanted to start with for the flare. Five minutes later Hairdo shows back up with prescriptions, none of which particularly helpful and one of which I am allergic to. I just signed the paper so I could leave and cry in my own room in peace.
I know it wasn’t malpractice, but it wasn’t compassionate care. And this sort of thing happens way too often.