Thursday, February 26, 2009

Please read this. I don't want this happening to anyone else.

I am very VERY raw in my heart and my head, and I need to get this out in the open. Maybe my story will help someone else in the future, and will encourage hospital workers to turn in their co-workers if they suspect them of being negligent with their patients. (The hospitals names, with the exception of National Institutes of Health, are not mentioned to protect those who work there and care about their patients.)

Let me start with a month before my sister Ginni passed. March of 2005. Before our last trip to National Institutes of Health to continue our stem cell trial, Ginni was suffering from so much bone pain, she needed some relief. I was told to take her up to the closest hospital ER and have them contact NIH. Anyway, I was still at work at the my family took her to (hospital A) and I met them there. When I got there, Ginni was in the waiting room...wearing a mask...around a full room of people with the sniffles. The hospital front desk had already been informed and had her paperwork detailing her illness. (Those who followed our story know that her immune system was zapped to make room for my immune system that she was about to receive.) When I got to (hospital A) and saw Ginni in pain in that waiting room (and had been there for an hour), I took action. I went to the receptionist, and explained that Ginni had cancer, had no immune system, and had to get away from sick people a.s.a.p. The receptionist didn't listen. I took Ginni's scarf off her head and told them to look at her. Still nothing. Then I said to move her NOW. At that time, they immediately took Ginni to a room and away from all of the sick people. There, I sat with her...and we waited another two hours. Ginni was in excruciating pain but needed to go to the bathroom and asked me to help her there. I did. Ginni was there less than 5 minutes. When we got back to the bed, somebody was in her bed!!!! We asked the woman why she was there and she said the nurse had just brought her in there. At that time, Ginni said to take her home. We would make the drive up to NIH the next day. Ginni said that all (hospital A) saw when she arrived was dollar signs.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. For a few months, I had been suffering from heart palpitations. Original diagnosis in November at (hospital B ER) was atrial fibrillation brought on by low potassium. I was put on a beta blocker by ER and given 2 potassium supplements and referred to a cardiologist. Cardiologist said my potassium was still too low and gave me a prescription for 30 days. And to continue taking the other prescriptions I had. My family doctor told me to stay on the beta blocker, so I did. The palpitations steadily starting getting worse....two weeks ago, I suffered chest pain and could barely get out of bed. I didn't want to disturb I stupidly drove myself to ER. (hospital A ER. The same one where Ginni had the horrible experience.) I went to the front desk and there were two women there. Neither one would look up to acknowledge me. I said I need help and I was having chest pains. Still, neither would acknowledge me. I know they heard me. I then said that I was going to sit down because I was in pain. A couple of minutes later, a woman came up and grabbed a pad and started filling it out. A pad that was not on the front desk when I arrived. She took the pad back up to the two women and they gave her a beeper like you'd get if you were waiting for a table at Outback Steakhouse. I went back up to the desk and told them I had been waiting and I needed help. I was having chest pains. One of them finally looked up and said, "You need to let somebody know you're here." I told her I did. And then the two women started fighting over who WASN'T going to help me. Both were way to busy. My chest hurt so bad. I walked out the door and back to my car. I couldn't drive anymore. I called my husband and told him what happened. He came to ER and picked me up and took me to another ER. When I got to (hospital B) ER, my pulse was down to 50 and dropping. My blood pressure was 90/60. After the tests were run, it was the beta blocker that was doing it and the ER doctor said to get off of it immediately and he called my cardiologist.

I am now off the beta blocker and no palpitations at all. The cardiologist ran more test and told me that I am predisposed to low potassium and it's dangerous to get as low as I did. I'm on a potassium rich diet and a higher dose of potassium TFN. I feel so much better.

Anyway, I contacted (hospital A) via email twice and they have not responded to either email. My husband got the names of both women at (hospital A) while I was in (hospital B) ER. There was another woman at the desk of (hospital A) who was aware of what happened with me, and gave him the names and the hot line number. She also told him that those women should not have let me walk out of there...chest pains are always to be taken straight back.

Well, he called the hot line and hasn't heard anything yet either.

I don't want ANYTHING out of this except that NO ONE ever be treated like this again. I am NOT a lawsuit kind of girl. I AM one who protects those with illness, and I'll be damned if I ever see another cancer patient go through what Ginni did. Or a heart patient die because of negligence.

I DO encourage you to share this with your friends and family and those who are health care providers and encourage them to speak up against those who are neglecting patients. It is not my intention to trash the health care industry. It is my desire to do my part to help make it better. It is also my desire to clear my heart of what happened so I can move on. I'm still very raw because of this.

I hope you can all understand.

Thank you for reading.


**Update** (Hospital A) has contacted me via email to say that my original email has been forwarded and I should hear something soon.

***Update #2***: I want to thank the ER Administrator at (hospital A) for contacting me and telling me that strides have been made to improve employee/patient communication in ER. She also told me what should have happened, but did not on that day and did apologize for it. Apology accepted. And what I really wanted has been done. To fix the problem. After the conversation I had with her, I believe she will make sure that happens. I hope to rest better knowing that the next emergency case is going to be taken care of properly. Perhaps I should have taken that matter to the ER administrator when Ginni's care was so poor. But Ginni's health was failing, and she was all I could think about. I didn't have the energy. Anyway, if I can help it, it won't happen to anyone else.

By the way...if you're ever having chest pains, DON'T drive yourself to the hospital. Get someone else, or call an ambulance. Okay? Just don't do it. I did, and that was stupid.

Update #3: I think I need to clarify in light of the two recent comments: My family doctor told me to go to ER and knew I was on the way.


Anonymous said...

You seem to feel very entiltled with every visit you make to an ER. The troble is that everyone feels their problem IS an emergency (need note to miss work, dental pain for a month, couldn't see their doc until next week for cold symptoms, chronic pain meds, folks illigetimately seeking narcotics) and overloads the system. Those coming in with real emergencies suffer with longer waits as the system is saturated with folks looking for instant results. In addition, some folks are know to the system with real disease and faking symptoms (belly pain) in order to get attention or narcotics--their disease mandates a work-up of labs/x-rays in order to practice defensive medicine and avoid lawsuit. Today's ER's are societies safty net with folks coming in for suicide ideation, family dumping elderly family because they can no longer provide round the clock care needed, folks reading diseases on the internet and demanding unnecessary diagnostic tests. In addition, advances of medicne has resulted in folks living longer with more severe/debilatation diseases and those folks also merit a full diagnostic work-up with each visit. Besides for folks in the waiting room, a whole other group of patients are brought in by ambulance and come straight to a room after a auto accident, fall, or complaint of chest pain.

I understand your frustration, but unless you work in an ER you don't understand the half of it. If a person is truely sick, and has a medical emergency for the most part those folks ARE recognized and brought back. The fact that you feel your condition is emergent doesnt necessarily make it so. Folks want the same customer service at the ER that they get at a restaurant or hotel. Care given is dictated by the severity of illness and not on the patient's/family's perception of severity of symptoms. All those who present to an ER are NOT created equal, those with chronic conditions do suffer to those arriving by ambulance from a trauma, with altered mental status, and/or unstable vital signs take precedent. The unfortunate part is that the ER has grown a tolerance to suffering since nearly EVERY PERSON who presents reports symptoms as if they were on death's door, as if to drum up sympaty or a sense of urgency from the hospital staff. I'm sorry, but you dental pain of 1 months or abd pain for 1 month that hasn't gotten better but since you couldn't sleep on a Sunday night doesn't move me to expedite your care.
What the ER's need is a better class of human, on who understand's that THEY are not the only "emergency" in the department, and to put more stock in regular medical check-ups.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion is that people should volunteer a few shifts in a local ER. I suggest a Monday afternoon shift as these are typically busiest, esp after a holiday. Get a sense of what goes on behind the scenes, get a sense of the volume of sick versus "I think I'm sick" patient that are scene, the demand on staff of patient care, the volume of patients arriving by ambulance. Walk a mile or two in the trenches of the health care workers staffing the ER's before your critisize what happens on the front end. Otherwise, it is akin to critisizing how a team plays a particular sport, but knowing nothing about the game itself. Or, critisizing how someone raises their children and having none of their own. Have a clue before you spout off about something you know nothing of. . .or have you worked in an ER previously?

Karen West said...

I encourage both of the posters to read again. I do not feel any sense of entitlement and if I did, I could easily take this to an attorney, 10 on your side, etc. I did NOT do that. But I do want people to know what happened. If because of who I am gives me the sense of entitlement, I didn't drop my business card on the front desk and demand to be seen. No one knew who I was and I DIDN'T tell anyone. I was your average patient with chest pains and trouble breathing. If because I came out and exposed what happened because I had the means to do so, then, guilty as charged. What I am is a patient advocate. Always will be. What I do feel is anger at the treatment of a cancer patient. And I feel anger that this could have been ANYONE with chest pains that was allowed to WALK OUT of an emergency room with nary a thought. Two times in my experience at the same hospital. Therefore, there was a problem. The sad thing is, I am not the only one who has had experiences like this at Hospital A. I'm just the only one who had guts enough to say something about it.

The problem that I have with post anonymous posts are: I gave the link to two contacts of hospital A, so they will be aware of why I am so angry. After I did so, I have received several hits from the same IP addresses, mostly in Yorktown. This is not meant for a cat fight between me and those involved. Like I said, if it were, I could very well take this further. But, I will try to answer some of the questions from the commentors because they are valid:

No, I couldn't possibly know what goes on in an emergency room. As I couldn't possibly know that there was a notepad on the front desk and each patient is given a buzzer. There was no one there to help with that. HOWEVER, there was a patient who walked in right after me who knew exactly what to do, which leads me to believe that she has been there before. I don't make frequent trips to the emergency rooms. I DO know the name given to those who do. GOMERs. This is something I read a few years ago. I thought it was funny then, I'm not so sure I think it's funny now.

I do definitely understand the overcrowding in the emergency rooms. So, I agree that the use of volunteers in ER could greatly help with the problems in the waiting room. I DO encourage you to fight for that. That is actually a great idea. And I hope to hear that this is being considered...or done. If there are other ideas to help take the stress off of an overcrowded emergency room, then I do encourage you to bring it up to your administrator.

In closing, I'm sure this is not the last I'm going to hear about this. But I promised someone two days ago that I would not back down. In memory of her mother who died because her chest pains weren't taken seriously. And I keep my promises.

Karen West said...

I edited my original post with another update. I should have included this when I wrote it, so it was clear: My doctor was contacted before my trip to ER. I was to go straight to ER and he knew I was on the way. By the time I got there, I was out of breath and could barely talk. Please reread the outcome of the condition by the time I was taken to another ER. The outcome was, I was put on bedrest and missed time at work because I was very ill. I am now under a cardiologist's care. I understand there are fakers, but here's the thing...The biggest issues I have with my case: The workers did not want to make eye contact with me. They fought over who had time for me. And both agreed that they didn't. And they allowed someone complaining of chest pains to walk out. Please keep in mind, this was ONE hospital. Unfortunately, this is where my doctor goes. I had to tell him of the experience and let him know where I was.

In my sister's case, NIH told us to take her to the nearest ER and they would be in contact. I did mention that in my previous post.

I did mention that the problem we had was with one hospital in particular, and I did not call out the name.

I hope this helps make this case clear.

Anonymous said...

Well, I HAVE worked in an ER and I know Karen. She does not feel a sense of entitlement. I had almost the EXACT same experience in 2 ERs this week and yes, i was advised by a dr to get there immeadiately.

There are lots of ERs where someone does not care. There are lots of JOBS where someone does not care.

There is NEVER an excuse for ignoring someone with chest pain. There is actually never an excuse for ignoring someone who says they were ill. Those frequent fliers the comments refer to could indeed be having a medical emergency today.

The goal of every hospital should be to provide the very best patient care every single time. At least 2ce this is not what happened to Karen.

That is not acceptable.

Tammy R. Moss said...

Are you fricking kidding me....when did chest pain become a non-emergency!!!!!!! Just another reason to go to the military emergency rooms where you are treated, no matter what your emergency.

Anonymous said...

One thing I noticed that bothered me is the fact that the commenters who posted against Karen seem to be ER workers and the sad thing is they surely don't know how to spell which could be one of the reasons why so many misdiagnosises are made in the ER.

RubyCosmos said...

Can see why first anon stayed anon. Wish they wouldn't, though, because I'd like to be forewarned which ER in the area doesn't consider cancer an emergency.

Anonymous said...

I too can't stand the entitlement mindset. I can't stand people who seemingly suck at their job but feel entitled to keep it.
I would assume that the people at the desk are not medically qualified to diagnose any patient that walks in the door. It is their responsibility to get the people checked in whether or not they think its appropriate. Doctors don't work the front desk. Leave the decision on whether or not a person needs treatment to someone qualified.

Ren For The Roses said...

I have a hard time believing those first two posters - the anonymous ones - are medical professionals.

If they were, they would surely know that there is a difference between your chest pains or your sister's cancer and a their examples of a cold or toothache.

And if they really are in the medical field and they DON'T know the difference? They probably work at the hospital you're talking about, which explains everything.

As for the accusation that you feel entitled, you absolutely ARE entitled to medical care in an emergency room. Period.

Karen West said...

I found this comment very interesting when researching "emergency room care." This quote rings true:

"I think hospitals everywhere need to be prepared for many more patients using the ER because they have been made to join the ranks of the uninsured because they have lost their jobs.
Regarding paying for another nurse, well that is supposed to be where the supervisor comes in and assists her nurse. There are also nurses and/or aides that can assist in an emergency.
Some people are afraid of reporting things to administration because what if they need to come back? How will they be treated the next time?
Hospitals spend a great deal of money on trying to improve patient satisfaction, but the staff needs to truly care about "giving care"
There should be a TEAM effort. "

That quote can be found here:

Dixie said...

What part of "chest pain" doesn't sound like an emergency? What part of "chest pain" makes anyone, let alone ER staff, believe it's in the same category as dental pain or cold symptoms? Which part of "chest pain" makes anyone believe the person experiencing it has some false sense of entitlement?

I find this quote interesting: "Besides for folks in the waiting room, a whole other group of patients are brought in by ambulance and come straight to a room after a auto accident, fall, or complaint of chest pain." Karen was standing in front of two women who were staffing the ER complaining of chest pain. Why is coming in by ambulance after a complaint of chest pain considered legitimate but Karen's complaint was somehow her simply feeling entitled?

Anonymous said...

I know Hospital A, and I've been there myself for problems before. And I went through the same ordeal Karen did. When I was a few weeks pregnant with my last child, I went in after spending 2 days with vomiting, bloody diarrhea and horrible stomach cramps. I waited in the ER for 2 hours. My husband even went up to the desk twice to ask what was taking so long, as there were only 2 other people in the waiting room with us as well. It got to a point I was crying on the floor and still getting no help, before I walked out and called my doctor. The doctor who TOLD me to go there in the first place. After that I ended up having to spend 3 days in the hospital getting IV fluids from severe dehydration. I was insanely ticked off that the ER ignored me that way, and left them quite a scathing note on their website for treating people that way. I got a reply pretty much the same as Karen did. Something seriously needs to be done about this hospital. If they're willing to let their patients with serious problems (i'm not talking something like sprained ankle or maybe a cold) walk out and possibly develop even worse problems or DIE, then they're not doing their jobs very well at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess this is like one of those frequent flier ER patients that the first two posters don't give a rat's ass about. The patient was mentally ill and ignored. The patient died.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking up for patients everywhere. I had to read the first comment several times and each time I was offended. He not only offended you, he offended all patients. This quote particularly offended me. What the ER's need is a better class of human, on who understand's that THEY are not the only "emergency" in the department, and to put more stock in regular medical check-ups.
The way I understand this is that every human that walks through their doors is an undesirable class of human. We are stupid and have no business coming to ER unless we are bleeding and coming by ambulance. We are all seen as an inconvenience whether we are having chest pains or a cut needing stitches. And those who cannot get regular medical checkups because of circumstances beyond their control should be really offended.
If he is truly a medical professional, I hope he is fired before any of us ever need his services. He would probably let us die because we are not a better class of human.

Tarri said...

If Anonymous 1 and 2 are employees of the hospital in question, I am grateful that I live on the other side of the country. Not only do they write as if they never made it past grade school, they are uncaring and unable to comprehend the difference between a potential heart attack and a tooth ache.

Seriously, the two women at the reception desk need to be retrained or replaced.

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

I work in ER and I understand what 1 and 2 are trying to say. But I have to agree with everyone here. There is no excuse for neglecting a patient. Karen was a victim of stereotyping which has no business in ER.

Tammy R. Moss said...

I challenge Anon 1 and 2 to be a patient in their own ER and I will be their ER nurse. Of course we all know they wouldnt be willing to do that, they already know how bad they are gonna get treated. At least Im not ashamed of my opinion. Don't worry Karen, obviously these people are chicken to say who they are, but we both know where they work. We wont be goin there again...THANK YOU GOD!!!!! God Bless Anon 1 and 2 they need it more than most.

Anonymous said...

As someone who works in the healthcare profession (in a hospital on a daily basis) and as someone who also has had several family members who have been through my hospital and it's ER, I can say this....I feel for you. If you were truly treated the way you said you and your relative were treated, it was unacceptable. The hospital DOES make a big effort to get to the bottom of these problems. I hope they take any necessary corrective action.

These other guys on here DO have some valid points of view, even if they may not be as tactful as they should be.

I'll say this. The ER is a different kind of place. Every hospital I've ever worked in has had a good ER and the staff is usually VERY ADEPT at triaging (or sizing up) the situation, and this starts before they even examine you. If the people in ER make an error in diagnosis, it's usually an OVER-estimate of the severity. Also, someone made a very good point that the ER is LOADED, and I mean LOADED, with people who really shouldn't be coming in there (for either minor problems, or not-so-minor problems that they seem to bring on themselves). I know some people see it as the only option, so I won't get all into it.

Also, there are MANY pts (I know many of them by name) who have come in 30-40 times in a single year with the same problems). Not all of these people are uninsured. I came think of several "regular" pts who have learned how to get faster treatment by saying "I have chest pain". We have thoroughly worked-up these pts up several times and, even when we determine they're in good shape, we still don't ignore them when they come right back in complaining of chest pain. My point is, chest pain is never (in my career) ignored.

I don't want to sound like I'm defending the ER's treatment of you. I'm not. I'm just saying, it is a very stressful place (like the rest of the hospital) and, unfortunately the staff may not have the time, or may simply not take the time to explain things to you.

The treatment (or lack of treatment) you received is highly abnormal and I believe the hospital will seriously investigate it. I can't comment on it since I don't know you or where you went.

One other thing. I've had my own relatives in the hospital where I care for patients (Note: you NEVER try to treat your own family), and we have had mixed experiences. Sometimes we've had long waits and sometimes things happened pretty fast. Also, some of my relatives complained regardless and really had a distorted perspective of their own family member's illness (severity) to point where it was comical. Each time, we (me and the actual providers) would explain what was happening and everybody would settle down, only to complain about some other major crisis a few minutes later. But I digress.....

I hope you are feeling better and it would be interesting to see if the hospital administration follows up with you.