Emergency? You'd Better Hope Not

Due to a long and complicated string of circumstances, we ended up at the emergency room of St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa last night. It was a nightmarish, horryifying, but very eye-opening experience. I have a piece of wise counsel for you--don't get sick at night in a major US city. The emergency room of the leading hospital in our city is no place to go if you need help.

We spent NINE AND HALF HOURS waiting. First we waited two hours in triage where they drew blood and took X-rays...and then did nothing. For over an hour, no one checked on us (my wife's blood pressure at check in was 185/96) to see if we were okay or needed anything. No one told us what was happening. No one told us what to expect. The staff had plenty of time to discuss their plans for the upcoming PGA tournament, to eat, and to sit and flirt, but precious little to help their patients. The hospital restrooms made a truckstop bathroom look like Adrian Monk's house. Filthy doesn't even begin to describe it. It's also quite heartening to hear a nurse describe you as a "big faker" when you're lying there trying to catch your breath--from what turned out to be a collapsed lung serious enough to require hospitalization!

The one bright spot of the evening showed up when we finally got into the actual emergency ward (though as you'll see, it went out rather quickly!) when one competent nurse and one caring doctor actually took the time to explain the situation, provide basic care (when you've already had one operation in a day, being back in the hospital and not allowed to take anything is something of a problem) and generally treat us like we were human beings. After looking at the X-rays, the doctor ordered a CAT scan, and finally concluded--nearly five hours after we arrived--that Brenda's lung was collapsed. That's when the nightmare resumed.

Shift change hit hard. The caring nurse was replaced by the worst one I've ever seen, and the good doctor was replaced by the invisible man. At 11:30 (more than six hours after arrival) we were told they had a room ready, and were just "waiting on orders." At 2:45 we were finally taken upstairs!

And the sad part is we had it a lot better than many of the people who were there. There were people crying in pain, lying on beds in the hallway for three hours and more because they didn't have rooms! (Maybe if it didn't take more than 3 hours to move people after the rooms are ready...) The waiting room was jammed until well after midnight.

I don't know all the answers to our health care problems, but I do know this. If it ever becomes necessary for us to visit the emergency room again, it won't be at St. Francis.


At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Rebecca Aguilar said...

Here's my two cents' worth: Avoid going to the emergency room around major holidays. My husband went to emergency on January 2nd fearing he was having another major heartattack. He was indifferently told to have a seat please. We sat and waited politely and obediently until we started listening to the horror stories of how long others around us had been sitting there. The lady beside me had been there for hours with some kind of liquid leaking out of her head from a recent brain surgery!!! An old lady with pneumonia had also been sitting in a wheelchair for hours. Finally in desperation I stalked into the office and declared that my husband had already had a massive heartattack and nearly died and could very possibly be in the middle of another and they were just letting him sit there! They defensively replied that they were not just letting him sit there--how else would you describe it?!! But then they did go ahead and check him out. Everyone around us was declaring that next time they would come in an ambulance so they could get priority treatment.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Wayne said...

I don't know about Oklahoma, but here in California the problem with Emergency Room over crowding is almost entirely because there's a huge population out there that's uses the ER as their primary health care. In SoCal, that means illegal aliens.

I've talked to more than one nurse who complained about the "emergencies" that ended up in the ER - such as headaches, colds, and just ordinary cut and scratches. They all need some attention, but in the ER they compete with everything else going on. Yes, the staff triages, and many places need to do a better job, but they're human too.

That said, I'm sorry for the horror story you describe - hospitals are no fun and your night was just another example of why!


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