Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Are A & E and Acute Assessment Units the Right Place for This?

It soon emerged that our fourth lady was the one who had needed the urgent medical attention that I had had to wait for while she was sorted out. It transpired she had a sore throat and had needed some antibiotics. She had a sore throat. Strange, a sore throat? It didn't seem to stop her from screaming loud when she first arrived in the unit; it didn't stop her from shouting and bawling for the entire afternoon and evening; it didn't stop her from wailing and bellowing out constant strings of  four letter words to get attention literally every ten seconds from the minute she was brought on the ward. I was extremely tired now after the days events and was still dizzy and  I began to feel exhausted and worn out, not least from all the constant commotion that was going on. The was a stream of overworked staff constantly attending to this woman.

I'm not one to feel sorry for myself, but I couldn't help but wonder why this person had had the immediate medical attention when I was first brought in and I had had to wait. Something seems wrong here: I've a rare and complicated heart and lung condition and am waiting for a heart and lung transplant and had had a real scare this morning. This person has a sore throat, yet she was brought in after me and given immediate attention while I waited. I do not wish to appear that I think that I am more important than others, but it does not take a lot of common sense to see which case should have been given priority. With all the comings and goings as she demanded more and more attention, it seemed evident that if you make a lot of fuss, then you get a lot of attention. This is really not my style and I expect both for myself and for others that the most needy should be given attention, not the most loud.    

During all this continual commotion and demands on staff, it emerged that the sore throat had been acquired because this person was a drunk, an alcoholic and a drug addict and she had little immunity. She was after drugs and trying to manipulate staff to this end. Of course, she has a very pressing medical need with these problems, but is the A & E or an acute assessment department of a hospital a place to be dealing with this sort of problem? Are emergency medical staff, who have to deal with burst appendices, heart problems and the rest, the ones who should shoulder all this?

The other two dementia patients were also becoming agitated and distressed with the woman's behaviour and doing their own shouting as well as bed wetting and again, I wonder should these medics have to be burdened with this as well? I am not saying that needy groups of people should be neglected and be bottom of the list, we are all needy if we end up at A & E, and I know I am quite needy with the problems I have got too and my problems are no greater than theirs.

The alcohol and drug problems seem to be growing in number and the demands on staff make them overburdened. It is well known to avoid A&Es on a weekend because of the drunks and if its not the drunks and addicts, then it is the poor old dementia patients, who nobody wants or cares about. It seems there is a great need to be addressing these facts and the staff in A & Es are strained because of it , as well as patient care suffering through no one's fault.  

A nice surprise happened in the middle of all of this, when the girls and Oli came to visit. The girls had kept their bridesmaids dresses on just to show me and they looked beautiful. I will always remember it and it cheered up what had been a rotten day. I hadn't expected any visits from the wedding party, but they really made my day and I was delighted at the effort they had made to come and brighten me up. Unfortunately that was all of the 'wedding' I managed to get a glimpse of that weekend and I was unable to give my good wishes to the bride and groom personally.

The consultant came to see me with the doctor, they wonder about an inner ear disorder, but cannot find any signs of infection or see anything on examination. I rather hoped this was the cause, it would be better than my heart being in trouble. They are unable to pinpoint what has been the problem and what may be still causing the dizziness.

The commotion across from me continued into the night and when lights are dimmed at eleven o'clock our dear little bed mate decided she would get dressed and come and scream and shout in all our faces, then scream and shout up and down the corridors and then back again to have a good shout in our faces. Fed up with this, totally emotionally and physically exhausted and needing to feel safe, after all I came in here to get safe, I ask if I can move wards. I now felt unsafe having a drug addict screaming in my face in the night, with no staff in the room, as well as having my medical problems. This is duly done, without hesitation and I was safe again, now amongst five dementia patients, but they are all behaving, they might have been having a shout here and there, but they were in their beds. I managed a few hours sleep.

Rob arrived early to make up my medication. It is an unknown process to the medical staff here and they were grateful. He had to find me first though, as I'd been playing musical beds in the night! He also spoke to my dear friend, she was in an assessment room by this time, being guarded by a policeman because she had hit a member of staff. She was shouting at him for cigarettes. Don't know whatever had happened to the sore throat, obviously a cigarette or two is a good cure!

The girl in the next bed, who had just arrived,  had taken an overdose and attempted suicide. So here I was fighting with all my will and determination to hang on to my wonderful life, waiting for a heart and lung transplant and wishing for it sooner rather than later, next to someone who wants to just die and give up on life, because its so bad. What a contrast if anyone was looking down on us. The consultant came to her talking about suicide, then to me talking about how transplant would save me!

It was time to get out of there, I'd had enough now. It was still lashing down outside and the heavens just seem angry. It was late into the afternoon and near dark when I was discharged out into the rain. Rob was already soaked wet through as he has had a struggle to park in the frenetic car park and we are both now soaking wet, along with the bags and the wheelchair back at the car.

Thank goodness I had my wheelchair; thank goodness I had my hospital bag; thank goodness we had booked the cottage for an extra night and we had somewhere to go in this weather; thank goodness for Rob and my girls and Oli, who helped us all lots; thank goodness I was out of there; thank goodness I am still alive. Again, I felt lucky, albeit cold and wet!

I'm felt in no fit state for the drive back to Hertfordshire, but I feared waking up in that cottage the next morning in case it happened again; I feared the long drive back home. I was still a bit dizzy and felt quite anxious, how I wished I was near to home and could be in my own bed, or better still have been checked by Papworth, just so I could have had some reassurance from the experts.          

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