My Trip to the ER: Attention Must Be Paid
I’m a psych patient. My primary diagnosis is bipolar II, but there’s a little anxiety, PTSD and other stuff mixed in. I’ve been dealing with it for decades. Sometimes I’m really stable and sometimes less so. The last several weeks fall into the “less so” category.
I spent several hours recently in one of our local ERs. It ranks as the all-time worst experience with medical personnel of all stripes that I have ever had — and that, I assure you, is saying something.
My therapist has been increasingly concerned about my physical condition, to the point that he called a nurse friend of his to come up and look at me in the middle of our most recent session. She was sufficiently worried that they agreed a trip across the street would be in order. My therapist, G., called ahead, filled them in on my symptoms, and said we were on our way, then walked me over.
I don’t know if being accompanied by a mental health professional had anything to do with it – my guess would be a resounding yes — but I was triaged nearly before I got my butt in a seat in the waiting room and put in an “acute care” room.
Different hospitals call them different things, but the name doesn’t really matter. It’s what they’re missing that matters. Among those missing things: Cords, sharp objects, sharp edges, pictures on the wall, your clothes, keys and belongings, which disappear immediately in favor of paper scrubs or a gown where everything is visible. Generally there is a cop or three standing across the hall, peering in at you every so often.
This one also had a closed-circuit TV and no fewer than three giant red “panic buttons” for staff who might find themselves with particularly agitated patients.
After that description, I bet this won’t surprise you: It turns out that nobody paid attention to anything G.’s nurse friend or he himself said.
The first physician who saw me said, “So you came in for a fever?”