Well since I do live in Dallas I feel obligated to weigh in on the subject. What is my opinion? “It’s scary as hell, I don’t like it, and I think we should be a bit panicked.”
One of the reasons I think we need to be concerned is that I had the misfortune to visit, about six months ago, the very same emergency room that the Ebola patient who died, Michael Duncan, went to and was initially turned away. My perception of that emergency room was that it was an inner city house of horrors. It was a disaster waiting to happen. And disaster has in fact happened.
What I am going to do is chronical step by step my experience there. I want to preface this by saying that I am a white female with more than adequate insurance so I cannot claim that I was discriminated against in any way. I received “standard” medical care for that hospital.
Here is what happened. I had severe abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. My husband took me in to the reception desk and left to park the car. I gave the nurse my ID and insurance card so she began typing away. She asked no questions about my condition. While I was waiting I became so weak that I slid to the floor. After about 5 minutes later the nurse leaned over the desk, saw me, and asked me if I needed a wheel chair. I said yes, but I did not receive one and remained on the floor.
By the time my husband returned I had been assisted into an intake cubical where I was asked my complaint, and vitals were taken. I then returned to the waiting room and remained there for about hour and half. The waiting was full of people in all states of distress, holding dish pans and buckets they obviously brought from home to vomit in. Eventually a nurse approached me with a wheel chair and a urine specimen cup. She then wheeled me into a rest room off the common waiting room and left me there.
Despite the fact that I was unable to stand on my own, I was expected to somehow pee in this cup and return to the nurse’s station. The restroom was filthy, covered with wadded up paper, urine, feces and vomit. There was no soap in the dispenser and no towels to dry my hands. Somehow I managed to collect the urine. However the wheel chair was an odd type that had no wheel grips on the side so there was no way for me to move it on my own, so now I am trapped in the bathroom from hell. I had to CALL MY HUSBAND on my phone to come find me and release me from the bathroom. He did and I returned to the waiting room and remained there for another 2 hours.
Another nurse approached me and I managed to totter over to a nurse set up at what looked like a card table in the filthy waiting room to have my blood taken. That accomplished I went back to lay down partially on a chair with my legs on the magazine table and drifted in and out of consciousness for another hour or so. Eventually I was taken back to a treatment room. They wheeled me past several completely empty bays of rooms. Whole segments of the emergency room center stood empty.
I spoke to a doctor for about 10 seconds and then received IV fluids and antibiotics. While in this I was shivering from fever and it was also cold in the room. I asked for a blanket and was told that there were no blankets available???? Couldn’t they have taken one off of the at least 25 empty beds I saw on the way to the treatment room.
After being there for about 6 hours total, I was sent home with no diagnosis and the advice to drink fluids, rest and contact my primary care physician on Monday. Monday was 2 days away.
So this is my story of the state of emergency medical care at the hospital Michael Duncan was turned away from and eventually died in. Were mistakes made? Hell yes. Are some serious enquiries and changes in procedures and care of patients needed? Again…hell yes.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves after a long exhausting horse ride staring up at canyon walls filled with hostile Apache warriors. The Lone Ranger sensing the impending doom turns to Tonto, his faithful Indian scout, and says “What do WE do now Tonto?” Tonto slowly turns towards to the Lone Ranger, thinks of his Indian brothers and says “What do you mean WE, White Man?”
The other night while in the emergency room for 5 hours, that part of my brain that stands aside and observes had quite an inner monologue going on questioning everything that happened or more precisely what was NOT happening. The delirious from pain and fever me and the bordering on hysterical with fear husband had an intense dialogue going on, but it wasn’t making much sense at the time. And doing us both more harm than good.
I remember asking “why did you bring me here to this ER?” His answer was “because this is where we’ve always come here.” Huh? “Who is we? Come to think of it I used to get medical care a lot faster before I married into this “we” family 10 years ago. And what does that have to with the fact that this is NOW, in the present, the premier suckiest, smelliest, ER I’ve ever been too?” The only ER I’ve been to so far that was worse was the one in downtown Kingston, Jamaica, when a friend poked some tree sap in his eye.
I think I said or maybe only thought “I’d be better off going to Parkland hospital.” (The hospital President Kennedy died at) “At least there I’d die fast instead of writhing away in agony for eons.” It’s pretty pathetic when you are in such misery that you hope for malpractice as an escape from this mortal coil. I’m not accusing Parkland Hospital of malpractice, and am pretty much sure that the President was already a goner upon arrival at their ER, but a desperate brain grasps as straws.
I then asked “OK, why exactly does the collective we always come here to this ER?” The answer was something along the lines of our family (in-laws) donated a lot of money or built a wing or some such thing. That’s all well and good, and I applaud their generosity. However, the point was that it wasn’t helping me now in the present. I didn’t see an express lane for hospital supporters anywhere in the room. When I need medical treatment, I want it fast and am not willing to be patient and wait simply because at some point in the distant past a relative made a donation to this particular institution. Unless maybe I’m willing to play the jolly fellow and just die and donate my organs as well?
Finally in total frustration, Mr. Husband asked “well what do you want to do? Go home?” I said I didn’t know. What I really wanted to say was “just shoot me now and get it over with. My God, if I was an animal they would have already posed this as an option.” The truth is that I rarely “don’t know.” I have an opinion on everything including my demise. When I say I don’t know it’s because I am afraid to verbalize what I’m thinking.
After several more eons waiting it came to me that having an Advanced Medical Directive is not enough. Mr. Husband and I both have a notarized version of this document authorizing us to make decisions for the other in case they are unable to do so.
Along with the AMD document it is also important to hammer out when exactly you become incapable of making decisions, and be very specific about it. Mr. Husband tends to play fast and loose with this one and sometimes decides I’m incapacitated the minute I say “oww.” I have decided that my definition of incapable of making decisions comes at the point when I am unconscious, with eyes closed, and do not respond to a stab in the sternum with a roofing nail and not one second before.
I’ve also decided that it is extremely important to decide beforehand, when I’m in my right mind, important details of health care such as what hospital I want to be taken to in an emergency. It will help ease the panic and confusion and lessen the emotional damage between loved ones after an event. Delirium tends to operate on a sliding scale. The other night I was slipping in and out of reality and at one point thought my brother was talking to me. He lives in Mississippi so that was highly unlikely. If you wait until that point to make life altering decisions you run the risk of not being take seriously.
Another thing I’m going to do is make up a cheat sheet and keep in my wallet. For my own use, to remember what I decided when I was “in my right mind.” And to hand it over to Hubman if I feel myself slipping to the dark side.
1) What hospital I want, no wait DEMAND, to go to if need be.
2) Who my primary care Doctor is …according to me.
3) What hospital I do NOT want to go to, in case my first choice is not an option.
4) Meds I’m taking.
4) What I’m allergic to.
5) The fact that I do not want ice applied to any part of my body unless death is the only alternative. (I hate ice packs-while it’s Hubman’s go-to solution for any problem)
After attending the fabulous and flawlessly executed destination wedding of a beloved niece, we left Key West last Monday and hit the road for a 2 day road trip to the Grand Hotel near Mobile, Alabama. A lovely old property that served as a hospital during the civil war and various other purposes before being turned into a resort.
The buildings got wiped out by several hurricanes over the decades, but the owners keep rebuilding it because the spot itself is so beautiful. It’s at the end of a peninsula over looking Mobile bay.
The area has a nice brand new hospital too. I got a tour of the emergency room last Monday night. I had developed a cough on the Saturday before and was drifting up and down the wellness scale feeling weak and dizzy. The night we arrived at the resort we had cocktails out on the patio of the hotel bar and watched the sunset.
Afterwards, Hubman took his mother for a walk around the property and reminisce. Mr. Husband and I honeymooned here as did his mother and father when they married 57 years ago.
I felt ok, relatively speaking, other than the annoying cough, so I went to our room planning to freshen up and change out of road weary clothes for dinner. My body had other plans. I started coughing violently and began tearing up luggage looking for cough syrup. I was coughing so hard that I was choking and started seeing spots in front of my eyes. Unfortunately the backpack that contained my medicine got left in the car.
I called down to the front deck and the twit who answered the phone said I needed to know the valet ticket number for the car. By this time I was coughing so hard that I was beginning to go into major panic mode. I hung up the phone and started staggering around the room trying to find my mobile phone to call Mr. Husband.
I found the phone, but the battery was dead because I had been using it to play games in the car all day so I couldn’t call him, silly me. Now I felt like I was drowning or choking to death. I called the front desk again and got a different person on the line and managed to gasp that I couldn’t breathe and needed help and medicine that was in my car. This person seemed to grasp that the situation might just be serious.
I learned something about myself. When I can’t breathe I start thrashing around knocking over furniture and throwing things around trying to find something to help. Our hotel room quickly took on the look of a space in which a wild party was still in progress. One part of my brain was standing off to the side musing, “wonder if this how Elvis or some Hollywood starlet died. Wearing nothing but a fancy spa robe, flailing around the room, like a drunk prom queen?” Glamorous, but terrifying none the less.
Fortunately, Mr. Husband arrived on the scene within minutes. He was not aware that anything was going on. By this time I was laying in the floor with my head in a waste basket because I felt nauseated. He claims I was “unresponsive.” I claim that dragging someone around the floor of a hotel room by their arm does not force them to respond, it just pisses them off even in their lack of oxygen state of mind. He was trying to get me to stand up. All I knew was that was not going to happen. I think I mumbled something about an ambulance.
Next thing I knew a woman introduced to me as a “loss prevention specialist” was patting me on the back saying that help was on the way and everything was going to just fine. I vaguely wondered if that was a job subspecialty now in the hotel industry. Make sure the guests don’t croak…on the property.
Things happened pretty fast after that, but it’s all a jumbled blur. The paramedics came and hooked me up to all kinds of gizmos and put an oxygen tube thing in my nose and away we went. I remember lot of people talking really loud like I was deaf and referring to me as Mrs. Blah Blah. That alone is scary. When people address me by my formal name I’m either in a lot of trouble or really sick.
It felt like I was watching a faulty TV and the sound kept coming and going. Heard a word here and there saying, embolism, heart attack, stroke. Part of me was thinking “Uh, that doesn’t sound good.” Another part of me was thinking “hey, will y’all just shut the hell up, turn the light off, a bring me a blanket, I’m freezing to death here in the backless nightgown.” And further more if you stick one more needle in me there will be bloodshed! Hey, that’s my blood. Put it back! Get this thing out of my nose. I’m tired of this, I want to go home!
They eventually shoved a tube in my mouth with steam coming out of it. That worked great and I perked right up because I could breathe. But never the less, the determined, dedicated staff decided to wheel me all over the place. They poked dye in my veins and then shot me through a tube several times. X-rayed me, thumped and poked and took more blood.
It was like being wheeled though the worlds scariest fun house. By they time they finished with me I firmly believed that the pit and pendulum followed by being shot out of a cannon were next on the agenda.
I was finally released with a diagnosis of severe acute bronchitis and a prescription for antibiotics and an asthma inhaler. Yay, lucky me, I lived! The whole experience put the fear of God in me to be sure. I am left with a loss of that feeling of invincibility that I’ve always harbored when traveling and life in general.
We left Mobile after a day of rest and drove a leisurely 200 miles to New Orleans. It’s a rather interesting test of philosophical fortitude to find oneself in a 5 star hotel in the exact center of party capital of the continental United States and be unable to drink or smoke or even get out of bed. At least I was out of town. Oh well.