Monday, March 05, 2007

Nine Hours in Purgatory

OK, I am not Catholic and really don't believe in purgatory, (or hell for that matter) but if you were looking for a model, you could try going to the Duke ("pardon our construction") Emergency Room after 5 PM on a night when someone was being treated for a GSW (gunshot wound for those of you who don't watch ER).

Backing up, last Thursday, I was feeling mostly OK in the AM and had made plans with Jamie to go to an outlet store that has very cute children's clothes (which mind you, Sofie doesn't need any of right now, but it was 50-70% off and I had a coupon). We highjacked our friend Susan who had turned me on to this place originally and off we went. When Jamie picked me up at 11, I was having mild "gastric or stomach" pains, nothing new. But a few hours later, it started to get more severe and by the late afternoon, after a 1.5 hour nap, I called my nurse. The pain was now constant, worse upon taking a deeper breath and spreading from tummy to chest. Not left side, however, so I did not think heart attack, but because of those pesky emboli, I was a bit nervous.

Teri advised getting to the ER, which despite my protests, I did. Jamie was at that point at the end of a massage, but came over to go with me and our friend (hero) Sharon came to do emergency Sofie care. Sofie was none too pleased, but she and Sharon get along really well, so that passed.

When we got to the ER about 6-ish, the place was jammed, literally not a seat in the house, anywhere. You have to go through a metal detector. But I checked in with "chest pain" and you know I got triaged right away. They did the usual vitals and then started an IV through my port.

And then we waited. Jamie was afraid of catching something in that room (filled with snot nosed little babies and people making the sounds that one associates with flu....and all sorts of other bad stuff). So she got a mask. With her bald post chemo head and the mask, everyone kept thinking she was the patient. People were being kind of protective of the damn chairs, and this pissed Jamie off. The family members who were well would not get out of their chair so someone who was obviously unwell (Jamie) could sit. Not fun. We ended up outside the bathroom, where periodically someone would run in and you could hear the unsavory sounds of vomiting or retching. Lovely. Very healing.

Anyway, to make this long story shorter, a synopsis: After checking in several times post 7 PM shift change, it was clear that they were jammed more than usual with the "gang related" shooting. There were four to six police officers, they were on "lock-down" in the back, so no visitors could go in there, etc. They were completely overwhelmed, complicated by the fact that the people at the front desk were surly. Not polite, not helpful, not even neutral, surly!

At one point about midnight (we were both very exhausted and I had not yet had the chest CT that was ordered before 7 PM), one of the doctors I know walked by and we chatted briefly. He had not been informed I was there and was surprised we had been waiting, at this point, nearly six hours. I was getting more and more pissed at the general bad functioning of this ER. Yes, this was unusual, but the lock down and GSW madness was over about 11 PM. Yes, they were under construction, but that does not have a thing to do with staff receptiveness or poor attitude.

The providers at Duke are superb, so far, with the distinct exception of the ER personnel and mostly this refers to the lack of attentiveness from the reception/triage folks. If someone had periodically stepped out and apologized a bit for the delay or offered some concrete idea of what was happening, people would not have been so miserable and pissed off, but they did absolutely nothing. And when you asked, they dismissed you with a very negative attitude.

Finally at about 1 AM, I had enough. I went through the door (left open by someone) to the treatment area and found a doctor. I asked him to find out how long until I would be seen. I made it clear I was not moving until I got this information. About 15 minutes later, he came back, very nicely letting me know he had talked to the charge nurse, (Norm) and that I should be able to get the CT "soon". He also gave me all my lab results. At 1:30 or so, when nothing more had happened, I went to the front desk and I asked (very politely) to speak with Norm myself. When he came to the desk, I asked him to step out. I looked him in the eye and said that if he could not get me to the CT area in the next 30 minutes, I was going to pull out my IV and leave. Within 15 minutes I was in a wheelchair and on my way. In all the chaos, my CT order seemed to simply have been overlooked. Following the test, I went to a treatment room. I had already had the EKG and such, so basically, although they did not know what was wrong, they knew it was probably not a heart attack (which I knew in the first place) and not more emboli (which should not happen since I have been on the blood thinners). By about 3 AM, after the medical student (not a doctor, never saw one of those) had examined me, I was ready to go. Jamie was just on the edge of falling down, it was pouring down rain outside, and I had to get home.

Finally, I was discharged, but not without signing the paperwork, to promise to pay the co-payment of $250 for this damned experience. I think they should pay me. I plan to contact patient relations and talk to someone, they (Duke) can do better, even during construction.

I have worked in ER's, I know it is chaotic by nature and tough, but lacking human touch and overall manners does not help. Stay tuned for more on my crusade.

When we got home (my house) Jamie immediately went to bed, but I still had Sofie's snake costume to create. We had gotten all the supplies (her school has a Book Character Day and it was Friday). So about 4:15 or so in the AM, I got out the fabric paints and started painting! I am no artist, but I had it all sketched out, so it went pretty fast and even the glitter paint (for the scales on her back) went on quickly. I dried it a bit, first by blotting with paper towels and then with a hairdryer, since the paint said allow 24 hours and I had about 2.5 hours at that point. And at about 5:30 I crawled into bed to sleep until 7 AM.

Sofie got up bright and early, remembering that I had said it would take extra time to have breakfast and then do all her face and body painting. I painted her face and her arms (even drawing scales to match the ones on the front of her shirt) on her and she was terrific, cooperating all the way. Jamie's blog (you can access it from my site) has a few photos, I will post those later.

All in all, after purgatory, once again, a six and a half year old made my morning bright. As soon as she was at school, I went back to bed, where I mostly slept the rest of the day. That nine hours in purgatory took a lot more than that to catch up!

No comments: