A health care headache from a patient’s perspective

As a relatively healthy Medicare patient, I do not visit doctors often.

I have had digestive issues most of my life — probably from too many antibiotics when I was a child with recurring strep throat, or so I’m told.

My husband and I had just returned from living out of state for two months while he was treated with proton therapy for cancer.

My stress levels were high.

I was not resting well nor eating well during this time. I was taking antibiotics for diverticulitis as we returned home.

Upon arriving home, I visited my PC doctor to follow up regarding a culture that had been taken before I left. The test was positive for proteus mirabilis in my ears (that had been going on for two years). Only a certain antibiotic was suitable for treatment.

I was concerned about taking two rounds of antibiotics back to back but was reassured that it was OK.

Near the end of the prescribed antibiotic, I developed severe cramping and pain in the upper gastric region, severe nausea, and diarrhea. A couple of days later after becoming incontinent during my sleep, I was very concerned, so I called my doctor on a Monday, only to be told that no one could see me because it was the end of the year and many people were trying to get in because of insurance deductibles. I assured them I was very sick and was concerned that I might have C. diff after taking the medicine they had prescribed. They said I should go to a walk-in clinic or to the ER.

I went to the walk-in clinic at 8:30 a.m., hoping to avoid the ER. They were polite and efficient, drew blood, and took a sample to test for C. diff — results to be available by 5 p.m.

They thought I should go to the ER for further blood work that they were unable to do. They also thought I should have a CT scan. I asked if I could wait for the results of the stool sample. They said, sure I could, but they wouldn’t recommend it because I might have pancreatitis, an abscess, or any number of other things that would only show up on a scan.

Trusting these medical professionals, I followed their advice.

Arriving at the ER, I was delighted to see only one other person in the waiting area. That quickly changed, and it filled up with people, some very ill. Since the flu was rampant, I looked for a mask but found none. I asked and was told they were all gone, but someone would get more.

Two hours later (no mask yet), I was called back to intake. The individual was quite obviously upset. I made a comment that they seemed to be suddenly swamped.

Wow, did that open her floodgates that five nurses had called out that morning? I asked if it was due to the flu. Her response was that it was bull, and she went on to vent every thought she had.

At approximately 1 p.m., I was taken back to a room and told the story of why I was there for the second time.

Blood was drawn, and I waited another hour before a doctor came in to see me. He asked me why I was there, and I recited my story again.

When I stated that the MD360 doctor said I needed to come to the ER for additional blood tests and that he thought I needed a scan, I was rudely interrupted by the doctor who said, “They had no reason to send you here. We’ll be the judge of whether or not you need a CT scan.”

Stunned at his tirade and behavior, I managed to say, “Excuse me, but you did ask me why I’m here, and I’m trying to tell you.”

He simmered down at my statement but soon left. I was put on IV fluid for dehydration. Then I was left alone, and no one checked back for over two hours.

At about 5 p.m., someone came in wanting a stool sample to check for C-diff, and I reminded them yet again that I had done that at the MD360 earlier in the day before coming to the ER.

I had to call to get the results as they couldn’t be bothered to do it. It was, thankfully, negative.

When the doctor came in to say goodbye, he was in a much better frame of mind and was quite nice, but the total experience was less than expected. It has made me feel that in the future, I will probably not take the advice of the doctor if he/she tries to send me to the ER in any similar situation.

I left the ER trying to find the silver lining; the only thing I found was that I had an IV, so I was less dehydrated.

I know that there are problems in the medical field. I know that people are overworked and have stress. I also know that I didn’t really want to be there, but on the advice of a medical professional, I went and did what he thought was best.

I already felt horrible, nauseated and in pain and did not need or expect to hear about every problem the intake person, the nurse, and the doctor had within their own establishment or with the way other doctors and nurses made decisions in the facilities that referred me to their ER.

I found it extremely unprofessional as well as just plain rude and very uncaring.

I write this because I hope that someone reading it (patients and medical professionals) will use this information to either make better choices on their own or to share it with their own facilities to try to keep this from happening to other patients in the future.

Sandi Russ is a patient.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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