A Hospital with ADD
In the ER
It was a long flight home from Amsterdam through Madrid to Chicago. I expected to be tired on arrival, but the day after I arrived something terrible was wrong. I felt like I was shot in my left side. The pain was constant, strong, and worse than childbirth. Five hours in, I knew I needed to find out what was going on.
My husband had H1N1. No way he could come with me. I went to the ER alone. In a short time they found me a place. set me up for a x-ray and a CT scan. A friend caught up with me via text and came to sit by me for hours while I waited. My cell phone didn’t work so I couldn’t call home.
My mouth was dry, too dry to talk. They gave me ice chips when they remembered. They never gave me a way to call for more. On the way back from the x-ray I asked for more ice or water. An hour later, I was still without.
When the tests were over, they said I had a mass in my lungs (pneumonia), a blood infection (ecoli), and kidney stones. Maybe and hour later or so, they said were going to admit me. My friend went home.
After being alone for a long while, I sent a note to the ER desk asking someone to call my husband or my son before they admitted me to tell them what was going on. The Dr. in charge of ER that night pronounced that he didn’t have time to make such a call. He spoke loud enough for me to hear him, but couldn’t walk the ten steps over to tell me himself.
I’d now been gone from home almost 6 hours. My husband had no idea what was happening with me. By then what the doctor had told me was a faint memory. I wasn’t able to answer questions about it. The pain was still there despite the pain meds they’d given me.
In the Room
The first doctors I saw were residents. They didn’t introduce themselves as such they just started asking questions about what medications I take. One took notes and took the name of my pharmacy wrote both in my chart
She told me to keep taking those meds.
I asked three times to be sure that was what she wanted, explaining that I have gone as long as week with out those meds and she said keep taking them.
Apparently this information was not important enough for other doctors to read.
This proved a serious mistake when they put me out for the procedure to remove the kidney stone. Because my meds interacted with the meds they gave me for procedure.
My oxygen level dropped deadly low — well below 80, I heard as low as 60 — causing me twice to have seizures on the table while they were getting me ready to go for removal of the stone.
I didn’t die, but I could have.
Back in my room I was on oxygen and a monitor now. Some help that monitor was. If I moved a certain way, the alarm on the monitor would show zero and sound an alarm. No one would come. We timed it once at 20 minutes without a response. Another friend who was there every day to watch over me knew how to turn off the noise.
I asked the charge nurse why bother with a machine if they weren’t going to come. The answer was a weak smile, a look away with her eyes, and a blanket apology.
“No. You are not.”
I can’t help but wonder what was more distracting or important than reading the charts and answering alarms?
What was more worth their attention?
Some people don’t pay attention even when it’s their job.
A Community Who Paid Attention
I was released after 8 days. The surgeon who performed the procedure hadn’t been to check that all was well with the stent he’d left in. I’d not seen him since 5 days before. I went home with about half as much pain as when I had arrived.
Then something beautiful, embarrassing, and unexpected happened. People started to tell my simple story of how hospital stay had knocked me low. They shared it on their blog and on Twitter and in messages to me that are unforgettable. Thank you, Deb Ng, Lucretia Pruitt, and Jenn Fowler for thinking of me. Thank you everyone who chipped in. And thank you to Kathryn and everyone who guest posted for all of the work you did keeping my blog going on.
People pay attention because they care.
I am grateful this Thanksgiving for every second of your attention.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!