How many of you have had a gall stone or similar? I just had my first and the excruciating pain was a thing to behold. Idiotically, I thought it would pass and only did something to fix it after ten days of agony. I get the Idiot-of-the-Week Award.
Anyhow, it gave me cause to see from the inside, the goings on in the Canberra Hospital from a visit to the Emergency Department, to a time on a ward, to treatment as an out-patient and everything in between, like blood tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, etc. Let me share with you this experience and you see what you make of it.
After running a decent fever, enduring pain at 9/10, I went to my doctor who said, off to the hospital with you, young man; here’s a letter. Go to Emergency and they will admit you, no worries. So off your correspondent took himself.
Arrival at the ED at 6pm to find a reasonably crowded waiting area and a queue to be triaged. 30 minutes later, I find myself at the head of the queue and being questioned by a triage nurse. So far so good, I hear you say.
Well, it happens that the counting for presentations for stats purposes, starts when you are triaged, not when you get there! So the waiting times at the ED are out by, in my case, 30 minutes.
There are five categories of patient. Life threatening; Emergency; Urgent; Non-urgent; and you really shouldn’t be here, go to your doctor. When triaged, I got an “Urgent: rating.
So with the “Urgent” folks, the time standard is 38 minutes to see a doctor. I might be out a couple of minutes here so don’t lynch me.
I waited another 30 minutes in the waiting room to be able to go to the bowels of the building to a new ED area. Then another 30 minutes before I saw a doctor. Stats blown to smithereens.
The issue for me though, is that there were people in front of me and behind me who could have been in a higher category than me. There was no one obviously checking to see if a presenting person should be advanced in the queue, like the little kiddie with a bandage on her arm.
Once in the ED itself, the inner sanctum, the nurses were fantastic. I had been in 9/10 pain for ten days and the nurse took one look and got me some morphine, administered intravenously. I guess after gang-tackling a phantom doctor. The doctor turns up and says we had better get some tests so I go for an X-ray and later an ultrasound. Ah! All is revealed. You are sick!
It turns out that there is sludge, small stones in the gall bladder and probably one stuck in a duct somewhere thereabouts. I am starting to get pain relief about now and not really interested in what it is, I just want the pain and the fever to recede.
After what seemed to be an eternity, I was taken to the ward, and put on anti-biotics and pain relief through the drip, and also given food via this method as I was to be prepped for an ECRP. NBM means Nil By Mouth which is code for YCCOE – You Can Smell and See Others Eating. The ERCP is a procedure where they stick a camera down your throat, look around and if there is a stone stuck in a duct, they can get it out. This is preferred to happen before the removal of a gallbladder. Young John is all ready for this one!
So, now I’ve been in the place twenty four hours. As the ultrasound said I wasn’t going to die, the ECRP could be done on Monday. Continue on with the drip over the weekend, son and don’t worry about mundane things like food or drink. That’ll happen in its own good time.
So Monday rolls around and young John is ready for the onslaught to his body. Nothing happened. Monday came and went, with no-one telling the anxious patient what’s going on. Turns out that more urgent people needed attending to (and that’s fine) but no-one bothered to tell the waiting patient.
Complicating the matters further, the intern, (bless her cos she’ only been there a couple of weeks and was most professional in her manner and information, I might add), came at around 5pm to discharge young John, thinking the ERCP had been performed! So one arm of the medical mafia (MM) didn’t talk to another arm, for reasons only known to themselves. The patient becomes an impatient inpatient and blows a blood vessel!
Oh … the good news is that I am allowed a light meal! Yay! Breakfast was porridge, fruit salad and bonox. Yes – Bonox! Who’da thunk it? Dinner was a round of sandwiches, a mug of pumpkin soup and a dollop of custard. High tea at TCH!
The next morning, along come a couple of junior members of the MM to calm said patient down and promise that something may or might happen, to tell us that we are the emergency player on the bench and that all being well, I might become well. Yeah well! That didn’t happen did it?
Roll on Tuesday night. Our patient patient decides enough is enough, and discharges with an appointment to come back on Thursday as an outpatient, with enough pain reducing drugs needed either to combat the pain or to sell on the streets and buy Hamilton Island.
Wednesday is a slow day at home and a relief not to be connected to tubes and stuff.
Off to the hospital for the 10am appointment. Go to the day surgery area. “No sir, you have to go to Admissions first. And before that you have to go to Xray.” “Yeah but I had an X-ray only a few days ago” says I. “OK then, don’t worry about X-ray, just go to Admissions and come back.” Okey Dokey.
Five signatures later and 30 minutes, young John wanders into the day surgery area again, hands over the forms and is told to have a seat. I know that I’m in for a long wait so settle in with some work on my tablet and a book of 900 pages.
At about noon or so, my name is called and the adventure starts. I’m taken into a production line of beds, given the obligatory gown and receive my cannula, inserted into the crook of my elbow. Ready to roll. Bad luck that. Another 30 minutes rolls by.
Then we go for a ride down this corridor and that, past the main lift well, past the hospital in the home, past the ED, turn right and down to X-ray. Oh great, says your correspondent. I’m then parked with a group of others and told “You’re next, mate”. As I saw the others dwindle in their number, I got the slight thought that maybe I wasn’t quite “next, mate.”
Another 30 minutes roll be. Funny how my life at TCH is cut into 30 minute bites! And a guy comes and off we go. Around the corner to be parked in the sun! Yay.
To be fair though, here we are visited by the anaesthetist, who asks me that same twenty questions I’ve answered (without complaint) multiple times since arriving a week ago. The surgeon also appears and off we go into the surgery area.
Sleep comes quickly and I wake up back at Go, having missed Jail, Regent Street, Pentonville and Fenchurch Stations and Mayfair.
Discharged after another 30 minutes (and a cup of tea and two Jatz). Home at last.
More drugs for the pain and a great night’s sleep. When I woke up this morning, I wondered did I just have a nightmare or was it real? The horror stories might just be right.
Credit where it is due though. The nursing, ward and medical staff were nothing short of amazing. Professional, empathetic, caring and dedicated. It is the systems that they have to negotiate which seemed archaic. So much paper, so little information sharing, so little coordination, so little information to the patient along the way.
Thank God I was not in a life-threatening situation.
Just thought I’d share this with you. I didn’t post last week because I was just starting this amazing journey.