Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Being a Patient

As you may know, I am a medical professional.  of course I am also a patient - I see my doctor regularly, I get minor illnesses, I have some chronic illnesses.  But this past Saturday I had to go to the ER, and I REALLY got to be A PATIENT.

Now, healthcare has really turned into a big business, and they act like one.  The want patients to feel happy and welcome - it's become part of the service industry.  They want you to come back! 

Emergency Rooms are lagging behind in this concept.

They still think they are saving lives.   So they don't really want you to bother them unless you really really have to. 


Really really.

Not that I didn't have to - there's nausea and cramping and diarrhea and stomach pain and chills that come with the stomach flu, and then there are times when you have to realize that the level of your illness could be much more serious, and that maybe it would be a good idea to be seen.

So Saturday morning I ended up in ER.  The registration clerk didn't have to ask what was wrong, she could tell I had abdominal pain.  Perhaps because I couldn't stand up straight. 

Being a medical professional, I tried my best to be a well behaved patient.  I was polite to the nurses.  I didn't ask for pain medication until I couldn't stand it anymore.  I didn't ring for a warm blanket until I was shivering hopelessly and my knees were mottled.  I hope the nurses had a pleasant experience with me as a patient. 

When it was time for the oral contrast for the CT scan I was pleasantly surprised - no more thick white shakes ("It's banana strawberry flavored!  Really!)  It looked and tasted like orange soda - no problem! I was a good patient and started drinking a cup every 15 minutes like I was told. 

Half an hour later the contrast started moving through me.....

I learned to use the call bell.

I swear there is a path worn in the floor between my room and the bathroom now in the ER ....  permanently....

That's also when I asked for pain medication for the amazing stomach cramps it created.  Now I was wondering why I came to the ER - to get better, right? 

After some IV Toradol, the nurse was very nice and told me I'd had enough contrast and they'd be there in 5 minutes to get me for the CT.  I curled up with my extra pillow and fell asleep.

45 minutes later I woke up.  Not in CT.  The doctor came in and asked if I'd been to CT yet.  Didn't they know???  She went to check on it.  I was finally comfortable so I didn't care.

15 minutes later the nurse came in and asked if they had the results of the CT.  Did anyone know anything???  She went to check on it.  Now I kinda wanted to get it over with. 

I should have lied.

Soon afterwards they came and got me for my CT.  I was still making trips to the bathroom, but the cramping was better, so I felt pretty good.  The CT, it turns out, was a triple contrast CT - IV contrast (no problem) oral contrast (thanks, that was lovely) and, seriously? RECTAL contrast.  Which means that they basically emptied a whole bag of fluid into my already unhappy colon and kept it there during the CT.  Sure they drained it out again, but a) it made a mess and b) now we had some serious stomach cramps.....

The CT showed nothing in my colon, which is good, because I didn't really want my appendix taken out.  The doctor was kind enough to give me some stronger pain medication though, since the cramping and abdominal pain had gotten pretty bad.

Dilaudid is a really nice drug. 

I thought is was just the first 5 or 10 minutes that was really nice, but apparently it lasted longer because later when I got home I let my teenage daughter drive us all to Big Falls so they could swim....

The doctor was also REALLY nice because she thought to do a stool culture and figured out that I had an infectious colitis.  So now I am theoretically on the road to recovery. 

But I am still not anxious to go back to the ER.

And I am never drinking orange soda again.....