Sunday, October 21, 2007

ER vs. ER

The fun began again. Yesterday I was sitting in class when my cell phone rings. It was Donny letting me know that he was going to the hospital. His legs were swollen and had ared area on the front of them when I left the house that morning. He said that they were even bigger and the redness was spreading. I got off the phone with him and made arrangements to go to the ER to meet him.

On the way to ER the friend that I was with called my mom. She apparently was unaware of the fact that her and my dad were taking Donny to the hospital. When I finally got it straightened out it was a case of miscommunication, but it was frustrating getting things resolved.

I ended up waiting at the ER for an hour before Donny arrived. (This was to be expected since we live about 45 minutes away, but my class is just a couple miles away.) When he got there I signed him in and the waiting began. I hate going to ER unless it's bad enough to think the person might need to be admitted. However, on a Saturday our choices are limited.

Donny had been signed in for probably an hour and a half when he got one of the hall beds. This was much faster than I had dared hope for, so I was pleasantly surprised. The only real problem that I have with a hall bed is that there's no curtain to pull around Donny so that he can't see what's going on. When he saw a lot of people being discharged around him he started complaining about being ignored. He stopped everybody in scrubs that he could get to stop to try and get what he wanted, whether it was a blanket, something to eat, or pain meds. And we were by the door to the break room, so I had to hear an endless complaint about how the nurses weren't doing anything but drinking coffee. I hate hall beds now.

Finally one of the nurses that Donny stopped said that he'd go check the board to see where we were at in waiting for the doctor, since it'd been a while and still no doctor. He came back and let us know that he'd try to find somebody to see us since we'd been waiting longer than anybody else and, even though you get bumped for more critical patients, it had been too long of a wait. I was surprised that anybody would actually say that somebody had been kept waiting too long, especially in the ER.

When the doctor got there he seemed rather put out at having to deal with Donny at all. He barely said anything, did a quick exam, and disappeared. I don't understand why, but he seemed to have ordered every test under the sun. They did a chest exray, sonogram of the legs, EKG, and a wide variety of blood tests. The blood tests and sonogram made sense to me, but not the exray or the EKG. When they came to do the EKG I asked if there were concerns about his heart, and the nurse said no, the doctor just ordered every test for Donny. It was just odd.

In the end they decided that it was cellulitis and that he could go home once he'd had his antibiotics. The doctor came to tell us this and he started talking about the prescriptions that he was going to give Donny. At that point we let him know that our pharmacy is closed until Monday. He said to go to Walgreen's, just down the road. I let him know that we're on MIA and so we can only use the one pharmacy and he looked at me as if I was something unpleasant that he had just stepped in. The only reason that we even said something is that one of the ladies at our pharmacy said that there's supposed to be an agreement with the ER that if they see an MIA patient on the weekend that needs meds at home they'll be given enough to make it to Monday out of the hospital's pharmacy. I won't make that mistake again.

When Donny's nurse needed to do the blood tests and put in the IV she had a really hard time with it. She didn't manage to get it until the fourth try. It was really hard on him. And then the IV only worked for a little while. When the IV quit working the nurse came back to take a look at it. She said that it hadn't gotten pushed in too far and she pulled it out a little. Donny let her know that it was really hurting him, but she seemed unconcerned.

A little while later Donny asked me to check if his IV was still dripping. At the same time that I was telling him that it had quit working again another nurse came by and heard us. Since it was change of shift he just took a look at it himself. Donny's IV had fallen out completely and was just dangling there. This guy had no problems getting a vein to pop up for him, and he got the IV in without any trouble. Or at least, without any trouble until Donny sat up. Then his freshly placed IV started dripping blood everywhere. There was enough blood that he could almost make the claim that he'd been shot and have it look believable. Oh well, at least that nurse was willing to joke around and so he got Donny back into a good mood.

We signed in at ER at about 1:00, Donny got discharged at 9:00. It took 8 hours to find out that he had cellulitis. But at least I know that he didn't have a heart attack. I got home and fell into bed.

This morning I got woken up by the sound of my mom saying Ow repeatedly. A little bit later there was a knock on my bedroom door. It was my mom. She fell in the shower and reinjured herself where she hadn't healed yet from falling 2 weeks ago. She wanted to know if I would take her to the ER.

At least they use different ERs, so I get a little variety. The one that she went to today was recently rebuilt and it's nice. There's 2 rows of room with a nurse's station in between. I finally found one ER that has a window for the staff. And the covers on the light have pictures, so there's something to look at when you're laying in bed. It's really nice there.

We walked in to ER around 9:50. My mom checked in and a few minutes later was seen by triage. A doctor came in and talked to her in triage. We were sent back to the waiting room to wait for exrays. After mom had gotten exrayed we went back to the waiting room for just long enough to speculate how long it would take for the exrays to be done because we figured that's when she'd be taken to a bed. She was in a room for less than 10 minutes when a PA came and let us know that she hadn't broken anything, and he did a physical exam. He determined that there was deep tissue bruising and told her how to take care of herself. A few minutes later we had discharge instructions and prescriptions. We walked out the door at 10:55. It was amazing.

What really amazes me the most about these experiences is the difference in attitude. At the county hospital it's assumed that you're there looking for drugs, especially if you're of a low enough income that you get MIA or MediCal. The nurses are more apt to be cynical, and we find a lot more rudeness. Where I took my mom today they took her word for it that she's not on drugs and they didn't bat an eyelash when she asked for pain killers. But what sticks out in my mind more than that is how nice everybody was. We were treated like regular people, deserving the same respect and common courtesy that you would ask be extended to you. I wish that more people would just treat others how they would want to be treated if they were sick and in a hospital.

1 comment:

mielikki said...

Well, sadly, Jamie, you kind of summed it up. County hospital versus a "private" hospital. The County one is always going to be the more jaded, and angry place. They see all the patients the private one doesn't, and it burns them out. Quickly.