Sorry I didn’t post last night; I had just spent nineteen hours in the emergency department.
I generally avoid the emergency room if at all possible, and days like yesterday are why. But on Thursday night I realized that my foot on the injured side was tingly and noticeably colder than the other. Pain and swelling I can handle, but impaired circulation can be very, very bad; so I asked Mr. December to drive me to the hospital.
That’s when we discovered that even stepping very lightly on my left foot (while leaning heavily the other way onto Mr. December) caused my knee to buckle under me. And along with the buckling came an awful sensation of nausea and lightheadedness. I couldn’t even make it past the front porch.
Mr. December called for an ambulance. Since it wasn’t a life-threatening emergency, they advised us it might be a couple of hours. I was finally picked up at 11:30, and delivered to emergency by 12. To my surprise they took me to a large hospital that has a dedicated trauma facility—that would have been my last choice, given how a trauma case pushes everything to the back burner, but that’s where the ambulance dispatcher sent me. I’ll never understand why.
I’m not going to detail every interaction I had while I was there. Here are some things I noticed, though:
- The hospital is still using pagers. So a doctor gets paged, then they call the extension that paged them, and then at that extension someone answers and makes an announcement over the PA system for whoever sent the page to please pick up 63… I’m not kidding. In this day and age of computers everywhere and instant text messaging, why on earth are they wasting time using this archaic system?
- The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Multiple times I watched as a porter approached a patient and said, “I’m here to take you to x-ray/CT/MRI” and the patient answered, “I’ve already been there, I just came back.” If Instacart can tell exactly what items my shopper has already bought and what they haven’t, as well as where they are as they deliver groceries to my house, why can’t hospitals have a system that tracks what has been ordered for a patient and what is needed next? And if they already do that, why isn’t it working?
- Nurses are doing jobs that could (and should) be left to housekeeping/maintenance, like changing the linens, and others that could easily be done by porters or even volunteers, like fetching extra blankets, water, or food for patients.
- The hospital now uses transport wheelchairs that can’t be self-propelled—they must be pushed, because the wheels are small and there’s an automatic brake on the push bar that the occupant can’t possibly release. So in addition to the errands I mentioned above, nurses also had to take time to push people like me to the bathroom, wait outside while the patient used the toilet, and then bring them back to where they had been sitting (or lying.) Again, this seems like a job for a porter, a volunteer, or a PSW. Better yet, they could provide the old-style wheelchairs so a patient could go to the bathroom independently if they’re able.
I was at emergency for nineteen hours. It went something like this:
12:00 a.m. — Arrived in ambulance, wheeled into hallway, triage. Transferred to a gurney in the triage hallway.
3:00 a.m. — Taken to x-ray, then transferred to a reclining chair up against the counter at the nurses’ station.
7:00 a.m. — Shift change. Nobody has so much as made eye contact with me since I arrived from x-ray.
8:23 a.m. — A nurse comes around and asks how I’m doing. “I don’t think you want me to answer that,” I say, and start to cry. She gets me some cereal and milk, takes my vitals, and reassures me that I’ll be seen “soon.”
9:00 a.m. — I see a doctor, who says my x-ray looks okay but I need a CT scan, which he’ll order right away.
12:00 p.m. — Still no CT scan. I ask the nurse if they’ve forgotten me; she checks and says, “you’re still on the list.” Great. At least I still have 2000 pages left in the book on my Kobo.
12:04 p.m. — my Kobo battery dies.
2:15 p.m. — Finally, a porter is calling my name. Takes me for a CT scan, returns me to the waiting area.
4:00 p.m. — I see the doctor, a resident. My CT scan looks fine, circulation is good, nothing indicating a ligament tear. She just wants to consult with her supervisor before they let me go.
5:00 p.m. — Haven’t eaten since the morning’s cereal and milk. A nurse brings me a chicken salad sandwich. It’s delicious, and I don’t like chicken salad.
6:30 p.m. — I’m losing it. I ask the nurse to please find out what’s going on. She comes back and says that the resident is paging her supervisor. What was happening up until now, I wonder.
6:45 p.m. — I go back to the nurse (I finally found an old-style wheelchair that I can propel myself) and tell her that unless there’s new information, I’m signing myself out. I can’t wait another four hours to be told that the resident was right. She asks me to wait a minute, since there are papers I need to sign if I’m leaving against medical advice. “So go get the papers,” I say, “because I’m leaving at 7 p.m. no matter what.”
6:50 p.m. — after a furiously whispered conversation behind the desk, the resident comes out and gives me an appointment slip for the fracture clinic on Wednesday. She tells me they’ve decided to splint my knee until then; someone magically appears with a splint and crutches, helps me put the splint on, and wishes me a good weekend. I wheel myself out to the emergency department driveway where Mr. December is waiting to drive me home.