Monday, April 26, 2010

Mystery Rooms of the ER

I had no idea the hospital had secret rooms to place patients in when they didn't know what to do with them. If you're unfortunate enough to be placed in one of these rooms, you may be untraceable for unknown periods of time, and no-one can hear you scream (scary laugh, ha-ha-ha-ha).

For those of you with POTS, several thoughts go through your mind as you are heading to the ER: I'm scared because my POTS symptoms are out of control, do I have my list of medications & doctors, will the staff know what to do once I get there, and finally will anyone there know what POTS or dysautonomia is?

My POTS symptoms were out of control, and my doctor couldn't see me or talk to me, so the decision was made to go to the ER, which is the last place on earth I'd choose to spend a nice sunny afternoon. I arrive at the ER entrance, where a greeter quickly swoops me up in my wheelchair (I begin to think this might be the beginning of a positive ER trip)and he drops me off alone in the admitting line (well maybe not). The admissions personal ask "Why are you here?", and wheezing from being out of breath I try to tell them "tachycardia, shortness of breath blah, blah, blah.", they give me a confused look and ask "What was that again?" I bow my head in defeat, take a few more breaths and try again. They finally get it, with a reply of NAME?... I don't have the energy or the oxygen to give her my name, so I hand her my ID. She calls a nurse over, and the nurse quickly wheels me over to a space in the triage area recently set up in the usually full waiting room. The nurse takes my pulse and blood pressure, my bp is skyrocketing, and my heart rate is dropping. I tell her I have dysautonomia, and she responds "You have what?", I try to explain, but I can no longer speak so the nurse decides I need an EKG, and wheels me to the EKG room.

Now for a little of my Er's history. Spending many hours there, with my type 1 diabetic daughter, I know the place rather well. We're on a first name basis with many of the nurses on staff. But on Tuesday they made a few changes, the ER waiting room was split in half, half remained waiting room and the other half became a triage area. The room they call the EKG room was the sound proof room they brought families into if they had to deliver bad news. I was later told that the triage center was less than a week old!

The nurse rolls me into the EKG room (formerly soundproof bad news room), I lay down on a gurney, the nurse rolls my wheelchair to the far corner of the room (so there's no way possible for me to escape, creepy laugh ha-ha-ha-ha), she tells me the EKG tech will be in soon, and leaves me alone in the room! As I'm laying there I'm experiencing chest pains, I'm dizzy from being short of breath, my head feels like it's about to explode, and I'm overcome with nausea, and no-one in this condition should be left alone in a room for any amount of time! I wait, and wait, and wait, and no EKG tech! After quite a long time the nurse comes back, peeks her head in, and quickly asks if I have had my EKG, I barely said no, and she was out the door. So again, wait, wait, wait, finally after almost an hour the EKG tech comes in looking for Michael Miguel. I tell him I'm the only one in the room, (now remember I'm experiencing brain fog, so my brain is running a bit slow) tick, tick, tick, oh I scream, are you looking for Michele McGough? Bingo, we have a match. EKG tech tells me he's been looking for me for over a 1/2 hour, and runs my EKG, he wheels me out of the room, where my name is being called out, I call "here", and the nurse asks me "where have you been, I have been looking for you for over a 1/2 an hour!, didn't you hear the pages?", "um, well no, I've been in the EKG room.", "the what?" the nurse replies, "THE EKG ROOM!" which only comes out as a whisper (but I am beginning to find humor in this). She rolls me to the registration desk, and informs me that she has a few questions for me, and I ask for my daughter, because I know I don't have the energy or oxygen to answer her questions. She goes to the waiting room where my daughter comes in a bit frazzled and ask "where have you been we've been looking for you for over a 1/2 hour!" I begin to giggle and my daughter gives me that knowing look of "you've got a story to tell", but we both want to get things going so my daughter asks what they need to know (I don't know what I would do without my precious daughter!). With the registration process over, a nurse comes in and tells me "I have been looking for you for over a 1/2 hour to take your blood and run an x-ray", with a smile I tell her "they left me alone in the EKG room for over an hour." she apologizes and tells me the triage area has only been running for less than a week, she takes my blood, and wheels me over to the x-ray department. While waiting we hear a woman screaming (in my head I'm thinking she just got some really bad news and I begin to pray), then we see 6 security guards running to a room where we heard the screaming, a few minutes later a social worker tells us that the woman was high on drugs and was bi-polar, wow, I got that one wrong! The x-ray tech comes out and informs me that she has been waiting for me for over a 1/2 hour, I chuckle and tell her that the hospital misplaced me, and she gives me a look like I'm a bit off my rocker (she obviously doesn't get the humor), not wanting her to call the six security guards on me, I put on my serious face and explain that I was in the EKG room, "the what room?". I'm getting a bit tired of explaining, so I redirect her to the task at hand. X-ray done, the nurse fetches me, I'm thinking finally I'm going to be placed in a room!

Psych! I'm wheeled into a small waiting room in the far corner of the hospital, with three other tired and distressed looking patients and their families. I announce to my daughter, "oh... this must be the lost and found room!", and the whole room erupts in laughter. I guess they must have been misplaced as well. We realize this is the transitional waiting room. As each patient is called out of the room we cheer them on and give them well wishes. Finally it's my turn, and I'm wheeled off to a room, woohoo!

I'm sharing a room with another patient, and I'm hooked up to various monitors, and asked "what brings you to the ER?" and I'm thinking isn't that in a chart somewhere? I tell him the same thing I've told a half a dozen other nurses, and the nurse says "you have what?" I answer, "dysautonomia", "could you spell that, never heard of it". Off he goes not to return, I guess I scared him off. He finally returns and announces his shift is up and someone will be replacing him shortly. It's been hours, I need to pee, I haven't had anything to drink, and no-one has checked on me in a while. I see a passing employee, and ask them to find my nurse, and she announces briskly that she is my nurse! Well that was the last straw, I tell her what I need, she tells me she can't give me any water or fluids until a doctor approves it, I tell her I've been there for four hours with no water, which will make my condition worse, and she tells me there is nothing she can do, and a few hours without water isn't going to hurt me a bit. I ask to use the restroom, and to bring me a supervisor. The supervisor finally comes, I tell her about the EKG room, and the long wait, and lack of supervision, she apologizes, gives me excuses and leaves. A few minutes later my daughter and the family next to us are offered snacks and drinks (I guess she thinks a little food will make us forget about the terrible treatment), and the nurse becomes more attentive, hmmm... I wonder why?

After five hours of waiting a doctor finally comes in and asks, "Why did you come to the ER today?", I responded, "Didn't you look at my chart when you came in, I can barely breath, and I don't want to explain it again." He informs me that he did look at my chart, and I ask him if he knows what dysautonomia or POTS is, he tells me no, I demonstrate to him how my bp and heart rate change by positional changes. He looks a bit startled, and by then I'm gasping for breath, and I'm finally given oxygen. I ask him to call my neurologist, he agrees, and leaves. I'm left waiting for another hour, and when the doctor comes back he announces that my neurologist wants to admit me. Two hours later I'm settled in my room where a new medical nightmare awaits!

Still inspired,
(but not by the ER department)


  1. AHHH!! What a crazy trip to the ER! My heart totally goes out to you. wow. I so hope you are feeling better today.

  2. I'm starting to think we need to put our own cards together with "this is dysautonomia, this is what I need, a check list of current symptoms, this is my doc etc". I'm so sorry it was so horrid. I don't bother with our ERs there's no point as the treatment is so poor. I can't believe that at the time you need the most care you get the least. I only just saw on FB you'd been in. I'm so sorry you've been so crook. I have my fingers crossed that you are feeling at least a little better. xxxx