I’ve always been a vociferous supporter of the NHS and the staff who work within. But last week this was stretched to the very limit by a poor experience at Frimley Park Hospital.
Last Wednesday evening I had a pain begin in my left chest when I took a deep breath. I did the man thing, ignored it, went to bed and hoped it’d go away. When I awoke the next morning the pain was still present.
I tried to book an appointment with my GP but no slots were available. Instead I eventually got a call back mid afternoon from a Doctor at the surgery. Having explained the symptoms he told me I needed to present at A&E as it may be a blood clot. Having recently had an operation I was in the increased risk category apparently.
So off I toddled to A&E at my nearest hospital, Frimley Park and after some tests, an ECG and a chest x-ray it was decided that I needed a lung scan and so would have to stay overnight. I won’t pretend I was delighted but needs must and after 4hrs in A&E I was transferred to the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU). This is a ward with beds for short stay only, no TV’s, bedside lockers or other frills and comforts.
Friday morning about 11.30am I saw a consultant who breezed by as they do. He said I would be taken for a lung scan after which if it was all clear I could go home. I should add that by now, typically, all symptoms had gone.
Sometime after lunch a porter wheeled my bed down to x-ray and I transferred onto the x-ray table. The radiographer explained I was going to have a lung scan which required an injection and then proceeded to flush out the tube in my arm with water.
At that point I enquired what the scan involved and was told I would be injected with a dye that could be filmed by the x-ray machine. Now, I am allergic to iodine which is often used as the contrast dye in x-rays, it’s in my notes and I was wearing a bright red allergy hospital band with ‘IODINE’ written on it. So I casually inquired if the dye was iodine and was told it was!
Had I not asked, they could well have proceeded to inject me with it, they hadn’t asked about allergies at any point preceding this and the needle was loaded and ready to inject! So after some discussion between themselves I was sent back to the MAU.
A while later a junior doctor spoke to me and said that I would have to have a different scan which entailed the ordering of a special dye that was not held at the hospital. No apology for the near disaster and ineptitude of the consultant who had ordered the scan without referring to my notes or the radiographer who hadn’t checked either. As a result I would have to remain in the hospital all weekend.
By now you will understand I was less than happy. The nursing staff, though pleasant had no orthopaedic experience and so had no idea how to handle me in my leg frame. I’m essentially bed ridden without help to get in/out and so was left in bed for much of the time. The frame was of great interest to all who saw me as they it hadn’t been seen before but apart from playing my part in the bedside freak show that was the only attention I had.
When I asked for the medical suppliesI needed to clean my pins I was often given the wrong stuff or less than I needed. I have 15pins and all need cleaning so if I am given 10 swabs what do they suggest I do, use some twice or leave 5 uncleaned? Each day a new set of staff appeared and so each day I went through the same process. Ring bell to get out of bed, wait, explain why I needed help, get out of bed, go to toilet, ring bell again to get back onto bed, wait, explain etc etc. And then, ask for pin cleaning supplies, wait, then ask for the correct items again and wait or give up and use my own as happened more often than not.
By Sunday I was very low. I had been out of bed only 3 or four times in three days had managed a shower only once and had developed a strong nausea, possibly because I had been put on oxygen as a precaution all this time. I was close to tears much of Sunday, two whole days of constant nausea, no appetite and being confined to bed was not what I needed! Don’t forget, the last Doctor I had seen was Friday afternoon 48hrs previous.
Then late Sunday evening, about 9pm, a porter appeared and I was transferred without little warning and no explanation to a ward, the Urology ward! Not the orthopaedic ward, or a respiratory ward but a Urology ward, why? Not even the nurses on the ward could explain that one!
Monday morning the nurses told me they could not find a Doctor who was responsible for my, ever feel you’ve been forgotten? One Doctor appeared and denied any knowledge and then finally another appeared who claimed some knowledge of my case (I had never seen him before!).
I naturally asked if I would be discharged after the scan if it was all clear and was told it depended on the results. I told him in no uncertain terms that scan or no scan, I would be discharging myself that afternoon as I’d had enough. He said Ok he’d see what he could do and then immediately turned to the Nurse and said ‘review scan results tomorrow”. Do they imagine we’re all deaf or stupid? I repeated that I was going to self-discharge that afternoon, results or no results and he then relented and told the Nurse to bleep him as soon as I returned from the lung scan.
I had the lung scan at 11am. This involved pre-breathing in radioactive laced oxygen gas before having a special chest scan. This is followed by having a radioactive isotope injected and the same scan repeated. All weekend I’d had a very sore cannulla line in the crook of my arm. When I asked if it could be removed I was told me I needed it for the lung scan. When the radiographer saw it she immediately dismissed it as ‘the wrong type’ because the dye stuck to plastic and so they’d injected direct into the vein after all!
I returned to the ward 1230pm and the Doctor was good enough to do as he promised and return shortly after. Three Doc’s in one day wow!. Because the scan results were not yet available I agreed as a compromise to wait until 5. Thankfully I was given the all clear about 4pm.
It was the combination of the botched scan on Friday, the complete lack of any updates or contacts with Doctors over the weekend, the lack of any facilities for me in my frame and the age old attitude of Doctors that patients are there to be talked ‘about’ and not ‘to’ that got to me. In the end it was clear that I stood a much better chance of recovery at home! if I was such a high blood clot risk, why was I allowed to spend 4 days immobile on my bed when at home I would have been up and about?
It’s hard to convey how bad it was as it already reads like a rambling whingathon but I’d gladly have the operation to fit the frame again rather than repeat this 5 day stay! Sadly as a result of this I’m now much less inclined to go to A&E.