Monday, April 20, 2009

An Open Letter to Emergency Room Staff

Last night I had the misfortune of having to be in an emergency room. I only went after not being able to breathe and losing hearing in my right ear. I left sicker than when I got there, and I am furious at the quality of care imparted. This was a good hospital- and previous visits for the husband's illness were absolutely easy. Mine, as a disabled female patient, was an entirely different matter.

I heard other patients admitted. A senior who had gotten so drunk he wasn't able to stand up. A woman who had diverticulitis, but whose white husband was doing all the talking. Two other women had sutures, and were in and out before I was even seen. Here is my open letter to the St. Rose Hospital in Las Vegas. (Names abridged until hospital responds.)

Dear Public "relations",

Dr. F. is going to kill someone. Last night, I thought it was going to be me. I have been in an emergency room 3 times in the last 20 years. Three. I don't go because I need attention I go because I need help NOW. I have two chronic conditions- Ehlers-Danlos, a connective tissue disorder, and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis- an autoimmune disorder. ANY doctor with ANY cardiac experience NEEDS to know this because if I get infections, it attacks my heart. I tell this emergency room "pretty boy" that I have Ehlers- Danlos and his response is "So what is that? Why do I care?" I try to tell him and he's already 20 feet away, back to me. And it happened again, later in the evening.

I came in from the airport, with a nasty infection in my ears - spinning room and all. It's relevant. I had been exposed to children with illness, it's relevant. But, with an intake nurse watching my husband's tattoos, and asking more questions about that- all I got to hear about was "Sinus infection" in the Vegas Valley. I hadn't come in from the Vegas Valley, I'd come in from Los Angeles.

Still, that's an infection. I saw a doctor two HOURS after getting there. (Six months before, my husband was seen for a fistula in less than 10 minutes.) I couldn't breathe, and was given a nebulizer treatment. This caused mucous to pour from my sinuses- and I was gagging on yellow chunks- Dr. reaction was "Swish with peroxide".

I continue gagging and vomiting air for 2 hours, and I hear Nurse 1 and Nurse 2 talking about their music, food, hip replacements, and oh yeah, I wasn't given antibiotics, pain meds, or even a second glance by the doctor after the "swish". My throat at this point is starting to bleed from the vomiting. NO one cares. THEN, I walk up to the nurses station, IN FRONT OF MY BAY, and ask for the pain meds again. It's now 9:34, and the intake nurse said I'd get them within the hour I arrived.

Right. Okay. I get back to the bed, and my left patella is now slid. Ehlers- Danlos. Nurse 1 walks up and tells me to get this pregnancy test. I'm told "Hospital policy". I've been to the bathroom three times, and could have taken one ANY of those times. I get told they need x-rays? For my throat? I'm gagging on mucous, not a nodule from Hashimoto's. I tell Nurse 1 my patella is out of joint, and I can't walk. I get handed a bed pan. I am now sitting on wet sheets- never once got asked if I wanted a blanket, or even tissues to wipe up the spit vomit- I brought my own. I see Nurse 2 (hip replaced at Sienna) mimicking me. No pain meds STILL. Patella out of joint, still vomiting.

The radiologist collects me..tells me I have to sit up- sitting up make me gag on mucous. She asks what I'm there for, and I tell her I came off of a plane with a swollen ear, and this has escalated since I got there- I have no idea why they are giving me expensive X-rays. NO blood tests. No CBC. Had my temp taken ONE time- when I checked in, on a body that has no working thermostat. No blood tests. At all. Infection could be in heart at this point- all I know is I'm getting sicker.

At 9:50, Nurse 1 comes into my room and says "You're all set to check out." NO antibiotics? No pain meds? And, prescriptions for pills I can't swallow. At that point, I told him I wanted another doctor NOW. Dr. pretty-boy walks back in, takes a look at my throat- I cough and he couldn't spin his head away fast enough. He listens to my lungs and says, does the same spin when I cough, I apologize to him (?)! "Your lungs weren't even congested."

So why give me nebulizers? Why let me choke on mucous for hours? I told him point blank- he didn't give me the antibiotics, or pain meds, and I was sitting there sicker than I was when I arrived. Again, mid sentence, he cut me off and left.. Nurse 1 suddenly is a nice guy after I say, "It's obvious you guys don't care." I knew more about his roommate and music than I did about when I was going to be helped. The doctor NEVER saw me again, NEVER told me anything. NEVER explained what to do afterward, and by the way, I'm on morphine for EDS. So he actually prescribed Lortab- which has conflicted pharmacology with Morphine and should NEVER be given in tandem. He prescribed Proventil- which is for lungs, and I have a prescription for already. He prescribed Leviquin. In pill form. I can't swallow. He listened to NOTHING I said, and got progressively less helpful.

He WILL kill someone and should NOT be in Emergency medicine. IT took ME BEGGING to get an IV. Nurse 1 stuck me four times before finally listening that a collagen disorder causes rolling veins and finally found a working one. I told him I had a picc-line before for that very reason. At least when he started to listen he realized I wasn't there to interrupt HIS evening. Meanwhile, my husband arrived at 11pm. It's a new tune. Oh, yeah, by the way, he's in a big show in town, is recognized, and people there were suddenly nice to me when he showed up. Before that, I was the disabled person with "issues", per Nurse 2.

The doctor never spoke to him. He never came back. We left, Nurse 1 was nice enough to wheel me to the car. Today, blood tests done, and my white cells were through the roof. I had to correct the antibiotics so that my heart was also taken into account, and I was tested for Mumps, which was borderline. Had the doctor done that in the FIRST place, I wouldn't have had to "Interrupt" his night. Do these guys honestly think being in the open and hidden by a curtain makes them un-hearable by people in bays? My husband and I now know that St. Rose emergency is preferential to celebrity types, and we'd be seen faster if I had driven back to LA to go to Cedar's.

All I needed was a blood test and to be given the right antibiotics- that didn't cause me to vomit for hours at a time, and to be HEARD. If this doctor is left in Emergency, you will find dead patients. He just doesn't care. At all. He can't even handle that people cough when they breathe mucous. He never understood why the Ehlers-Danlos was important and KEY. And, Nurse 1 telling me I could crush antibiotics into applesauce wasn't the answer.

We used to believe this was the only competent facility. Now we know better.


  1. Oh Cathe, that's horrific, absolutely horrific. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, I can't believe that sort of behaviour could go on at a hospital or that such uncaring, callous people could be practising medicine. I hope you're in better health now and that you get a satisfactory response from those blackguards. Jodie x

  2. I think what is really sad is that when we demonstrate knowledge about our own bodies or conditions we are not respected. Instead there is a subtle assumption that we are hypochondriacs versus educated. I am an educated dental health care provider and reflexologist but when I dare question or contradict an assumption my GP might make the walls immediately go up. If I am not knowledgeable about a health condition one of my clients may have, I listen to them. Trust me, the majority of them are experts in knowledge of their condition. I hope your health improves.

  3. Thanks to both of you, (and the few who emailed privately). I've been to a follow-up appointment at my VA Women's clinic, to a doctor who gave me another antibiotic, and is seeing me again this coming week. She knows about my heart, and scheduled tests to ensure that there won't be further complications. I hope we all are treated with respect. It seems truer that Women are thought of as "hypochondriacs" rather than educated, as you said, Sue. I am so glad to have you post.

  4. I've never seen this site before today. I think we should have a community where people can talk about how their doctors have practically emotionally abused them for years. I was diagnosed at 17 and had to start seeing a Pediatric Oncologist who apparently had no idea how to treat someone who was nearly an adult. After five years of sticking with him because I didn't know any better I feel like he was abusive. There's nothing I can do about it. He is 70 years old and still in practice, even though he was having trouble just writing his prescriptions correctly when I was seeing him five years ago. Thanks for sharing your experiences.. It's nice to relate.

  5. Hi Swiss and welcome. There is a book in the works, and Patient Advocacy is finally getting to be a bigger business- but absolutely it's up to the patients to wake the medical community. I'd be happy and eager to add a forum to this blog if anyone is interested. It may wake up more doctors. There are great sites, including which already exist.


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