A Review of My Recent Trip to the ER for My Chronic Illness
It had been three days. Three days of pain that forced a grown woman down on the floor, in the fetal position, screaming. I’ve felt this pain before. Every month my endometriosis symptoms kick into full gear and last for a few days. As the days pass the pain usually subsides until there is little or no pain, but this time it’s as though my body decided that a day’s worth of pure torture wasn’t enough. That third day I was so incredibly desperate for relief, and I’d already tried everything I knew to relieve pain. All that I knew wasn’t enough to tame the torture weapon lodged inside my gut. How do you endure three days of debilitating pain? I gave in and went the hospital…
My mother wheeled me into the emergency room and I could feel eyes trailing my sorry state. My limbs trembled and my stomach lurched as my lower abdomen seemed to scream at me in pain. I was wheeled through some doors further into the emergency room, and I could feel stares from the nurses on their current shift. A nurse glanced at me and quickly blurted, “What’s wrong? Is she pregnant?” I didn’t have the strength to respond, for the room seemed to be spinning into a deep spiral all leading back to the unbearable labor type pains I was feeling.
My mother quickly explained to the nurse that I had chronic Lyme disease and I had been in this frightening state for three days now, to which the nurse replied, “Chronic Lyme disease… What’s that? What’s it actually called?” My mother responded, “It’s called chronic Lyme disease,” to which the nurse replied, “Oh, it must be a disease then.” The nurse quickly helped me into a hospital bed, took my vitals, and promptly left the room, saying she would be back.
I sat screaming in agonizing pain in that room for a good hour before they came back to administer pain medication. The nurse that gave me my IV told me to breathe slower and then said “it gets much worse from here.” A few tests, and endless hours later the doctor came in, told me that according to the blood tests, nothing was wrong with me, and informed me that I needed to take ibuprofen. He said he didn’t understand how bacteria could spread to your uterus, and he admitted he knew very little about Lyme disease. I was incredibly relieved when the nurse finally told me that I could go home. I pulled my aching and trembling body out of the hospital bed, and my parents held me up as we walked out to the car. It’s amazing how a night in the emergency room can make you incredibly grateful for your own bed, and the security that comes from being under your own roof.
When I was 15 I went to the emergency room for generally the same reason, during that experience I recall nurses that acted quickly. I recall how nurses promptly administered my IV, pain medication, and tests. I recall a doctor who spoke to us respectfully and professionally, and nurses who tried to fulfill my needs as a patient as quickly as they could.
Given the massive difference in experiences, I’m left with this inquiry: What has our medical system come to?
When did we get to the point where the first assumption is that I’m pregnant? When did we become so uninformed that we haven’t even heard of certain chronic illnesses? When did we get to the point where instead of sharing words of encouragement and hope, we spread words of fear and irritation such as “it will only get worse from here so breathe slower?”
There was one nurse in particular that I remember. She came to retrieve my insurance information and afterwards she asked if I needed anything. I felt heavy from the strong pain medication, and the room felt like a freezer. I asked for socks and a blanket, and to adjust my bed. That nurse was the one nurse who treated me like a human being. She acted quickly and told me that seeing me brought back memories for her. To that nurse, thank you for being a decent human being and showing compassion for a patient who really needed it at that moment.
So what are we missing?
My point in writing this is not to say that all nurses and doctors are like the aforementioned ones above. My point is not to say that I’m easily offended and “how dare these people treat me like garbage!” My point is to say that a trip to the emergency room is hard enough for people who are in pain. The last thing we need is for doctors and nurses to make it more difficult for us.
Hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, etc. are reputed to be places of healing. Places where people come for help from these nurses and doctors. What is our medical system if we aren’t actually giving help to people in need?
So what’s missing? What are we all missing that maybe needs to be added to the medical curriculum? I can name a few:
These aren’t just qualities that nurses and doctors should have. These are virtues that as human beings we should all be striving to develop. It may not be your job to be kind or compassionate, but being kind and compassionate is something that should come from being a decent human being. To be a doctor or a nurse should be to play a part in help and healing, but if healing isn’t involved then how are you helping?
We deserve better. We all deserve better. As people we have an obligation to treat each other better. My message to medical professionals today would be to try a little harder to be a little better. If we all showed a little more love in our professions I think the world would be a better place.