Friday, September 23, 2011

Shame on You, Finale

To recap...I fell. After a week of falling and uncontrollable peeing, I went to Kaiser's minor injury clinic. I enjoyed lusting after a hot doctor. I, reluctantly, agreed that I was wrong to wait for medical attention. Maybe. Madame J escorted me to emergency, where the hot doctor had called ahead to ensure I would arrive in a timely manner. See Part One and Part Two for more information.

I started this blog entry in the usual way-- a cuppa chai, a soft piece of bread (yum, breakfast!), a carefully crafted position of the iPAD's microphone, and a boost of Dragon. This is the last entry for "Shame on You," and it should be the easiest. I finally got my bee-hind into the emergency room, right? I've obviously lived to tell the tale, right? No worries. As soon as I read my post, however, I looked at Sugar and said:

"Holy shit. I am one angry bitch."

(I suspect Sugar thought, "Um, yeah? Tell me something I don't know...?")
You see, I hate my local Kaiser emergency room. Actually, hate is a mild word for my feelings of disgust, repugnance, loathing , revulsion and abhorrence. I'm sure they save many lives and are equipped to handle strokes, heart attacks, lacerations and broken bones. But when a C4 Quadriplegic with incomplete cord damage and complex conditions enters their doors? They are inept to the point that they almost kill me. Seriously. I have been sent home with non-medicated kidney infections and out-of-control autonomic dysreflexia simply because the staff was unable to follow treatment protocol. Earlier in the year, I had introduced myself to the Emergency Department Medical Director and spent some time reviewing the procedures. The end result? He was very nice, but honest:

"We just don't have the time and resources to train our staff to provide the level of care you need."

On this particular day, how badly could they screw-up a bladder infection and lower back injury? I originally wrote a long, involved story about the horror (the horror!) But who wants to read (yet another) angst ridden tale of medical incompetence? Personally, I prefer to dream about the hot doctor and his fine, fine ass. Yum. Uh, where was I? Oh, instead of the original crap I put into words, here is my ER experience captured in 3 acts: Beginning, Middle and End.

The Beginning

I knew I was in trouble as soon as we entered the room and I needed help transferring to the hospital bed.

Nurse: Can you stand? Walk to the bed?
Me: Uh, no.
Nurse: No? Why not?
Me: (looking from the nurse to my wheelchair) I'm quadriplegic. Limited movement from the neck down. Here because I can no longer stand and walk. I fell and hurt my lower back. Can you call a lift team?
Nurse: No, too much trouble. Let's see if we can move you to the bed, ourselves.
Me: The bed is too high, I'm too fat, and I can't stand.
Nurse: You can hop up, can't you?
Me: Hop? Like a bunny?

Okay, at this point, sarcasm was probably not appropriate. Madame J was trying not to laugh. The nurse just looked confused. So, I tried again:

Me: Why don't we just call a lift team?
Nurse: No. Too much trouble.
Me: Oooookay. Huh. Do you have a transfer board?
Nurse: What's that?
Me: You know, a board that I can put between the bed and my wheelchair, so I can slide over?
Nurse: No, we are a hospital, we don't have those things here. Let me find someone to help.

The nurse leaves the room and I look at Madame J.

Me: I want to go home.
Madame J: No. Just stick it out. You need that MRI.
Me: But they don't even KNOW what a transfer board is!
Madame J: I know.
Me: They haven't even taken my vitals, yet!
Madame J: I know.
Me: So, let's leave.
Madame J: No. You stay. I'll drop off your urine and pick-up your medication refills, while we wait. We will talk about it when I return.

The Middle

Four hours later, Madame J enters the room, prepared to say "goodbye" for the evening. Her shift has ended and I convince her to leave. No one was doing anything, and I was still waiting for my MRI. The ER doctor (not hot, but still producing testosterone and worthy of a smile...yes, I have no shame...) enters the room.

Doc: Your blood pressure is too high. Did the nurse cath you, yet?
Me: No, they didn't have the right size catheter, so I did it myself. I brought my own supplies.
Doc: I guess it's good you came prepared, huh?
Me: (laughing) Yeah, guess so. (Serious face) I'm 3 hours late on my meds. It's probably pain-related.
Doc: Let's give you some pain meds and get the pressure down.

The doctor grabs my arm and points to the open line they put in my vein.

Doc: Just a little bit of morphine and you'll be fine.
Me: No morphine.
Doc: It's just morphine.
Me: I promised myself I would only take morphine if absolutely necessary, or if I'm dying.
Doc: Huh?

Madame J starts to very slowly walk towards the door. I glare at her, and she stops trying to escape the room.

Madame J: She believes that morphine means she is dying.
Me: It DOES mean I'm dying. Let's just stick with Norco and Gabapentin, okay?
Doc: Uh, okay. You do know I could-- POW!-- one simple injection and you're feeling fine.
Me: Yeah, I know, but a couple of little pills and-- POW!-- I'm fine. Okay, maybe 45 minutes later, but still...


Madame J: (to the doctor) Don't worry. She has a very nice psychologist.
Me: (to Madame J) Hey! Don't mock the cripple!

We laugh and the doctor leaves the room. Madame J thinks he had to leave to order the meds. I'm convinced he left because I was a crazy bitch, and he was afraid the insanity was contagious. Regardless, they arrive with my pain meds and (45 minutes later) and I am stable enough for the MRI. I convince Madame J to leave since the County won't pay for any more of her time. (It's one of those "rules" the government uses to enforce in home care. Long story.)

The End

After 11 hours in the ER, the nurse insisted my bladder infection was "nothing to worry about." (This was before my PCP called to say they had to send the results to the Centers for Disease Control-- something about "incredibly resistant bacteria and extremely high levels of protein.") The ER doctor mentioned that the MRI showed a "stable enough spine." I was sent home with strict instructions to "take more pain pills and stay in bed."

Nurse: Here are your discharge papers. Is someone coming to pick you up?
Me: No.
Nurse: Why not?
Me: It's after 4 in the morning. Wheelchair. Special car needed. Not worth the drama.
Nurse: How will you get home?
Me: I'll drive myself.
Nurse: Oh, that's nice.
Me: (I slap the wheelchair) This puppy goes 5 mph. I should be home in 15-20 minutes. I only wish it had headlights for the dark roads.
Nurse: Oh, that's nice.

The next day? The neurologist called to say they found more tumors and leaking spinal cord fluid.
In a strange-and-twisted way, the ER visit did save my life because they completed the MRI. It turns out that the damage to my lower back is identical to the damage to my neck, and the disease has progressed to other areas of the spine. I would have been completely ignorant of this fact if I had continued to refuse medical treatment and ignored my repeated falls. Granted, it kinda sucks. I can no longer walk, and I have had to adjust my morning exercises around my wobbly, weakened legs. It could be worse, though...

I could still be in emergency, trying to hop onto a gurney like a crippled bunny while they attempt to shoot morphine into my open vein.



  1. Holy crap! What kind of cut rate online nursing school do they send their staff to. Heck, even I know what a transfer board is.

    As usual, I am speechless at the enormity of your illness and delighting in your writing.

    Mango Momma

  2. WTF? That nurse is lucky she wasn't close enough for you to order Madame J to bitch slap her! I'm ashamed for them. Ashamed of them. Kaiser is shameful. Shame on them...