My Aneurism Scare - An Emergency Room "Horror" Story
The Rush to the Emergency Room (ER)
September 8, 2014 was a Monday morning I will never forget. I was suffering on day three of an excruciating headache. All weekend previously, I was treating the headache like it was a migraine, but nothing worked. Anyone who has ever suffered from migraine headaches knows the symptoms. Aside from the pounding and the nausea, there is no way to describe migraine headaches to those who only get minor little headaches that can be treated with a couple of aspirin. By Monday, my headache was worse than a migraine. In fact, it was the worse headache I have ever experienced in my life. When I mentioned that to a friend who also happens to be a nurse, she suggested I go see my doctor. Her concern was that it could be an aneurism. I took the urgency in my friend’s voice seriously because in the past two months I know of three women who suffered from aneurisms. Two of them passed away and one survived.
I called my doctor’s office and the attendant wanted to schedule an appointment for next month. Next month? I told her I couldn’t wait that long. She suggested I rush myself to the Urgent Care Center. So, my husband drove me to the Urgent Care Center. I checked in and waited almost two hours before speaking with the doctor for five minutes. He said my condition was potentially life threatening and suggested I get to the hospital as soon as possible.
Enter the Emergency Room
Well, the hospital is only one building over from the Urgent Care Center so I walked over and into to the emergency room. It was the most crowded room I have ever seen. There were sick and injured people in every square inch of that waiting room. After checking in at the front, I was directed to a little area at the front of the waiting room and had my “vitals” taken by an attendant who checked my blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen level. Then, the attendant handed me the blood pressure cuff and asked me to keep it with me. He said I would need it throughout my visit.
Blood Pressure Taken So Many Times
He wasn’t kidding about that. While sitting in the waiting room, the attendants would constantly call patients to the vitals station so they could check the patents’ vitals every half hour. That was the strangest thing I have ever seen. People come to the ER because they are sick or injured and now you keep calling them up to the front desk to have their vitals taken every half hour. One patient was a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair. The person who wheeled her into the waiting room left after about half an hour. So, every time the attendant called this patient’s name, the patient would yell out, “I can’t get there!” And, the attendant would come out from behind the station and wheel the patient over to the vitals station. This went on for hours. At some point, the other patients started taking turns wheeling the patient to the vitals station. Ludicrous!
When I arrived at the ER there was one guy there who came in because he was suffering heart pain and had difficulty breathing. A neighbor found him and rushed him to the ER. He was still sitting in the waiting room when I left. For all I know, he could still be there… waiting to be seen by a doctor. It’s sad.
I must say, in spite of the long wait, during my adventure, I met some really nice people in the waiting room. In fact, the waiting room became quite the social scene. People were sharing the events that lead them to the emergency room. In fact, some people became so friendly they exchanged phone numbers and set up luncheons for when they recovered.
Cut to the Chase!
I’ll shorten the story and get to the stupidest part of my excursion. I had a CT scan and some blood drawn. The nurse said the doctor would review the tests and call me when a bed became available. I was sent back to the waiting room to wait.
As I sat there in the waiting room I saw a sign posted on the wall that read something like, “Patients are seen by the severity of their injury; not in the order they arrived.” That made sense. I could get behind that concept. But, as time went by, the waiting room became fuller and fuller. Three hours later it dawned on me that I came into the emergency room because the doctor at the Urgent Care Center thought I might be experiencing an aneurism. Surely, they understood the urgency of that condition. Surely, they have reviewed the tests by now. I deduced that they must not be concerned or they would have found me a bed by now. I decided that after all this time has passed, and the doctors have not placed much concern over my headache, then it could not possibly be an aneurism. It’s just a really bad headache. After talking it over with my husband, he went up to the attendant and asked what was going on. The attendant told him that the doctors have reviewed the tests and although she could not give an official answer, unofficially she could tell him that the test results are all normal. My husband told the attendant that I wanted to leave. The attendant said she needed to see me and talk to me before she could let me go. So, I went up to the attendant and told her I wanted to leave. I had to sign a waiver that stated I would not sue the hospital if I left the hospital and died as a result of not staying to finish my appointment. I went home with a very bad headache.
Phone Calls From the ER
Leaving the Emergency Room
While I was en route home, the ER attendant called and left a voicemail message to let me know that if my headache became worse, I should come back to the hospital. Now, I ask myself, “Why would I do that?” The next day, the attending doctor in the ER called, but I couldn’t pick up the phone in time to catch his call. He left a message that said my test results were normal and he apologized for calling so late (i.e. the next day). He urged me to come back to the emergency room if things got worse. I asked myself again, “Why would I do that?”
I still had a headache. It was not as bad as it was on Monday. I hoped that by the end of the week it would be completely gone.
I am glad that all I had was a really bad headache. At the same time, I cringe to think that if this was a real emergency, I might have died in the emergency room. I hope other emergency centers are more attentive than the one I visited. I can't imagine an emergency room run with less efficiency. Can you?
After my emergency room horror, I planned on visiting my regular doctor. After all, technically I had not seen a doctor about my headache and it was still there.
Hospital Band Identification for Waiting Patients
Hospital Horror Story Follow-Up
Tuesday, September 9, 2013 (one day later)
This new medical plan... the one we are forced to pay for... it's not working. I just thought I'd get that out in the open. After waiting for hours in the ER, I finally left before seeing the doctor. I can have a headache at home just as easily as at the ER. I called my doctor's office the next day to schedule an appointment to see the doctor and was told that the next available appointment wasn't until October 1. I was told the doctor would not be in the office until Wednesday and the attendant I spoke to suggested that I just do a walk-in. She said the doctor is in on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. She said the best time for walk-ins is in the morning because the doctor gets busy as the day goes on. By Thursday, my headache was still bothering me, so I walked in and when I got to the doctor's office the attendant tells me, "We don't take walk-ins." "What?" I said, "I called!" "Plus..." the attendant continued, "We don't take walk-ins when you're following up from the ER. You have to go back to the ER." What? That doesn't make sense. Why would I go back to the ER? That's for emergencies. The attendant rambled on about how if I went to the ER for a specific condition, then I needed to go back to the ER for the follow up. She said she was sorry, but that was standard policy. No wonder the ER is so crowded. I needed some serious headache eradication strategies at that moment. I told the attendant that with any luck, I'll be able to cancel the appointment for October 1. She just kind of smiled like she knew it was stupid to have to wait. But what can you do? It's policy.
Take Charge of Your Health
As citizens of the United States, we are required to pay for medical insurance or face escalating fines for not doing so. Doctors, medical centers, and hospitals all exist for our health benefit, but it doesn't matter much if we can't get in to see them. As I see it, we are paying for service that is, for the most part, unavailable when we need it. It's my opinion but I think that's ridiculous. Nevertheless, this experience has taught me to take more charge of my health. It has taught me the importance of doing as much research as possible and get second opinions (assuming I can get a first opinion to start with).
My advice to everyone is that you follow up on every appointment and stay on top of every illness to your satisfaction. Don't stop trying to find solutions, because even if you get better and even if all of your test results turn out to be normal, if you are still feeling sick, there is obviously something wrong. With their limited resources (either limited experience or equipment), the doctors simply have not identified your illness yet. Unfortunately, you will need to do your own research to find out what the problem might be and what the solution might be. You want to be sure there are no hidden issues. Regardless of whether or not you find a probable cause and solution, if you are not a medical professional, whatever you discover, it is wise to take your discovery to a professional to help you determine a final decision for your overall outcome.
Doctors are human beings, therefore they are not perfect. And, as I have discovered, neither is the medical system designed to help us get well. The best suggestion for better health is for us to take charge of our own health.
Do you have an emergency room horror story?
© 2014 Marlene Bertrand