In crises? Me and the HSE.
I’m not used to being silenced but at present, I literally cannot talk as I have laryngitis. Today I can’t shut up even if I wanted to, taking to my keyboard and being more honest about my life than I have ever publicly been.
My health issues are known to some because it’s the only way to understand who I am and why I am. I have methods for dealing with it which involve dealing with them alone as much as possible and engaging in services that are available and appropriate for me. Everyone has their own problems and I usually know what I need to do to get well. I have had tremendous support all my life from my wonderful family and friends. They’ve done their duty and I’m working my way through figurative I.O.Us.
It’s hard to believe that on Saturday I went to my school reunion and partied like it was 2004. Less than 24 hours later I lost my voice, I had strep, I had chest pain and my arm felt shot to shit. But no hangover!
I had gone to the doctor a week earlier with my arm and a myriad of small things. If my arm was still bad after treatment, my doctor advised me to come back. It got better, then it got worse. So, with all the aches and pains my doctor’s office recommended for me to wait until the end of the day and ring ShannonDoc where they would see me quickly. After a doctor examined me, diagnosing strep and being concerned about my arm I was sent to A&E.
After spending so much time unwell for years in A&E – a four-hour wait is nothing. I can do that standing on my head. Well perhaps not this time because of the pain, tiredness and vulnerability one has when one is feeling unwell. But despite my impatience I can apply myself to getting through long days and nights. I stayed almost three days with my father when he was dying. It felt fast, slow, confusing, heart-breaking but it had to be done. Time meant nothing anymore except that for one of us, it was nearly up.
The waiting room was like a bar, lads sitting around watching the game on TV. I had no interest and tried to read my book with one hand.
I was biting back impatience, one of my worst traits. Then anxiety. Trying to think practically and hold patience when my whole body was filling up with anxiety felt like I was internally drowning. Trying to ignore the screaming child and the others who around there had every right to be there. I didn’t want to be there. Something in me was flickering.
I was kindly invited to sit in the small room near the bay in A&E. This is one of many places where I’d expect by now I had an ass groove. I was better than outside but everything about that room I hate. How often was I there or in the bay? Will I ever forget the night we brought my father there, and he was placed among trolleys in front of the main desk? I was put out – one relative per patient. My mother tried to hold his hand, stay close but in a loud overcrowded area we were all befuddled.
I got up, wading through the staff and the trolleys to politely and respectfully asked to go home. They spieled and encouraged me to stay – I ensured them I got it, I empathized but I didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to sign out and go home. They convinced me to stay a little longer.
I was on my own, no car, feck all in the wallet, I had to get home eventually, and I wasn’t walking home at 4 in the morning after a 12-year-old doctor told me what I already knew, gave me a paracetamol and said bon soir. This also happened when I was in presenting with gastroenteritis. My mom brought me out, and I had no wallet only to be told I would be on a chair in SSU on a drip to rehydrate and I could be left go at any time. Reassuring right?!
I walked down to an admin/ward to formally request to leave of my own accord. I waited in that room while nurses, staff passing in or out. I tried to stop a few but none who looked as if they were already dealing with a ton. No one was under obligation but it would have been nice if someone said: “Are you OK?” “Are you looking for someone?” Anything.
I just burst into tears out of pain and tiredness and they cast a mere glance at me, which brought back a memory of minding my father when he got out of the hospital. He had gone down so quickly I couldn’t understand and in the nursing home I sat next to him and cried surrounded by people walking in and out and the other patients. Why do I keep mentioning him in relation to me? Memories I can’t get rid of right now. I draw parallels despite the fact I will be fine in a day or two and he isn’t here anymore. To conclude, I just broke down. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My chest was tight, I was terrified another panic attack was on the way, I had suffered a bad one less than a week before.
I got a piece of paper and thanked them, acknowledged I understood they were too busy and I got that, but I could no longer be in that bay. Waiting. Remembering. They wouldn’t understand the underlying reason. It was being alone in that place.
I have a huge regret about going especially when I knew they wouldn’t help me. The knock on effect of being in A&E was the proverbial straw but I needed to communicate with someone because I knew I was very upset. What constitutes a crisis? I think the fact I came out feeling like I was having a small heart attack and crying constituted a call to the crisis team.
This was not my first time at the rodeo. In my personal life, I have traveled the rocky road that leads to SSU or the short stay unit to the great unwashed. Most of the staff were very good to me, very kind. With regards to the crisis team, it was my personal feeling that as the years went by they did not like me, however in fairness, some of that was justified. I was accused of missing appointments with people I never heard of. I was spoken to in an aggressive manner on at least two occasions. They made little of any surface injury which did not constitute an A&E visit but I was brought there anyway because it was protocol. I have always felt they were trying to trip me up.
As I write, I wonder why I ever engaged with most of them more times that I had to. I felt tense and withered when I would see them. I felt like the enemy based on their comments. I gave up a long time ago and tried to hold my tongue, but I lashed out on Monday night with my sarcastic comments. Trying to explain to a member of the team that the reason I walked out crying required me to explain the scene was interpreted as a hospital complaint which is not the case. It doesn’t mean I was right or wrong. I was very upset, alone and in pain. I literally had I had no voice.
That person who I talked to last night, who I genuinely respect a great deal needs to know this: you defend your whole team. I defend me. I am entitled to describe how I feel about your service and it’s value to me. I am not the only one who has criticised you. So grow up and stop getting defensive – you couldn’t understand the nature of my call to you, or the fact it is part of standard guidance from people in the same line of work. I’m “in this job” longer than some of your staff. When you could not determine from my words why I was calling you, I got sarcastic.
To some of the staffers, past and present of the Crisis Team I have just this to say to you. Go and take a long hard look in the mirror. Who are you in the eyes of others and what of that importance? What do you do for those who require your services? Are you really helping? Do you want to help people like me? If you do, what do you feel benefits a patient that is emotional? Why do what you do if you have people like me in a cyclical mode for almost 20 years? Should I stop calling? What did you mean when you asked me: “who told you to call us?” Really? Professionals that’s who. I would rather be set on fire than speak with some of your team. Stop standing up for them and stand up for me, for people in Limerick City. That’s what you are there for. Suck it up.
Some of the staff have been so good, the best that they can be under a workload that gets higher and higher as the budget blugeons healthcare. I have spent my years praising HSE staff both privately and publicly. Now it’s time to get real. If your service can’t take a smack to the ass or simply LISTEN to the effect a hospital visitation had, I will respond with my words and hope I find my voice soon.