A Nightmare Night in the ER

After being seen in the same urgent care clinic three times in a two week period, they sent me to the hospital for an IV antibiotic. They had taken x-rays and run tests and I initially had the flu that turned into acute bronchitis. Easy enough, right? That’s what I thought too. No, it was a nightmare night.

When I arrived at the ER, they took my information and sent me to a large waiting room with uncomfortable chairs to wait for a room. I asked if there was a place I could lay down because I didn’t feel well at all and knew I wouldn’t be able to sit there an extended amount of time. The answer was a resounding “no.”

After sitting uncomfortably in the waiting room for a little over four hours, I was led to a small space in a hallway that had a gurney with a curtain that barely covered the length of it. In the space next to me was an elderly man who was having dizzy spells during the day. A friend sat with him and they had some amusing conversations about women they dated when they were younger and one poignant discussion about life during and after the war. Apparently they were in the same war, but different locations. They faced some of the same issues when they went home after their service experience. I wish I had a tape recorder with me to share it with you. That conversation would make an entirely new article.

Finally, along comes the medical staff. There was an enthusiastic resident who wanted to order every test the hospital supplied. Oh no! Can I have a real doctor, please and not one in training? There was also a cranky nurse, who didn’t want me for a patient. She complained to her co-workers and anyone else who would listen, about how she had every cardiac patient that shift. I wasn’t a cardiac patient! My chest tightness was from having bronchitis. I don’t have an MD, but even I knew that. It was not my lucky night. The overly enthusiastic resident ordered an EKG and wanted a CT to ensure I had no blood clots in my body. Huh? I was sent from urgent care to ER for an IV antibiotic, not a range of tests I didn’t need. The nurse continued complaining, but she was over with the elderly men now, grumbling at them. I told the resident that I was allergic to shellfish and iodine. He didn’t understand the association right away. Hello! He went to med school, right? That means I need a 13 hour steroid workup for a CT scan, because I can’t have iodine. He conferred with the cranky nurse, who confirmed it. He said he needed to confer with his boss, the attending doctor. Yippee, give me some peace so I can relax.

No rest for the sick. The nurse came over and wanted a urine sample. Are you kidding me? I just sat in a waiting room with nothing to drink for four hours and she thinks I can give her a sample? If I had the energy to get up and go hunt for a water fountain, I would’ve used it to get the heck out of that hospital. No, I was there because I was extremely sick and had no energy. I told her she would have to get something for me to drink if she wanted a sample. She made it obvious that she wasn’t happy with my answer. She stormed off and the elderly gentlemen next to me started talking about mean she was. One was impersonating her and I added, “Hey, she didn’t say ‘Sir’ at the end like you did.” It gave us all a good laugh, including the doctor who happened to be walking though the hallway and overheard it.

So, after being there for five and a half hours, the tech comes to put the IV in my arm to get me started, so I could finally get out of that place. My sarcastic comments kept him laughing, even when he was the brunt of my humor. He was frustrated that he couldn’t find a vein in my arm. “Duh, you leave me without anything to drink for six hours and you expect to find veins in a dehydrated body? I’ve been asking for water since I’ve been here. They keep promising it, but no one has delivered.” He had a good laugh when the attending doctor finally arrived six hours after I had been there.

The first thing the doctor said to me was, “So, I hear you don’t feel good tonight.” I glared at him. “Can I have a real doctor please that has an education and knows I don’t feel WELL tonight?” The tech covered his mouth and stepped away laughing. I guess the doctor’s ego couldn’t take the truth, because that was the last I saw of a doctor last night, even though I was there for more than four more hours.

Shortly after they started my IV, they released the elderly man next to me. They told him they couldn’t find a reason for his dizzy spells and said he needed to see his regular doctor within the next couple of days. I bid him good night and wished him more luck at the doctor’s office and away from the ER.

The cranky nurse moved onto me and whisked me off to an actual room. She barricaded the door open with a large trashcan, and chair and stormed out of the room. I didn’t see her again. Thankfully. However, a bunch of loud techs were sitting around the desk outside my door discussing motorcycles. I dragged myself out of bed, lugged my IV over to the door, and closed it. I turned off the light and went to sleep

A different nurse woke me up at 4 AM and let me know my IVs were complete. She gave me instructions to follow up with my doctor in the next couple of days and booted me out of the hospital. What a fun night that was.

The good news is I get to return the nightmare to them when I request an itemized bill, sit down with an administrator, and go through it with a highlighter, while I question every expense on the bill and refuse to allow my insurance to pay for things never used. Last time it was Pampers, even though I was there for a kidney infection. The sad news, is this is supposed to be one of the top rated hospitals in the country. What are the rest actually like?

© Elizabeth Whitman 2011

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