How NOT to Spend Most of Your Week

130924 Hospital


This was going to be a rant about health insurance but is going to be a rant about our present healthcare system – from the inside out.

Tuesday morning I woke up with what I thought was an asthma attack.  I hadn’t had one in over 2 years but always have my trusty albuterol inhaler available.  I was short of breath, light-headed, and I had this pain in my back.  I felt like someone was sitting on my chest.  I used the inhaler – nothing.  Damn.  I called my doctor thinking I would be going in for a course of Prednisone and would be done.

Well, my doctor wasn’t comfortable with my symptoms.  He sent me for stat blood work and a chest x-ray.  This is at 11:00 AM.  At 3:30 he calls and tells me he thinks I really need to go to the ER.  The D-dimer blood test was a little elevated and he thought I should have a cat scan to check for a pulmonary embolism – and oh while I was there just stay overnight and have a nuclear stress test in the morning.  Then he said something about my insurance having an issue but don’t delay, go to the ER now.  Oooookaaay.

I spent from 4:00 PM until 2:30 AM in my little room on a gurney in POD A of the ER at Baystate.  When I arrived I was thinking “Oh, this is pretty comfy”.  By the time I went to my room I was thinking “Dear God, get me outta here!”

I took the photo in the ER, I wasn’t feeling so bad at the time and figured I could make a post out of this little experience.  As I took the photo I was thinking “Wow, this probably breaks every HIPAA law there is”, but I took it anyway.  I intended to take more.

I had a great nurse while I was in the ER.  She had been nursing for 45 years – in the ER for 25, she knew her stuff.  She put in an IV.  We had a conversation about how healthcare was nothing like it used to be.  She said back in the day they would never do all the tests they do now.  The tests were to cover the drs. butts in case something happened.  If the lawyers were taken out of healthcare it might be saved, as it is now it’s swirling in the bowl.  She really didn’t need to tell me that, up until this point it had been all about the tests.  I had blood drawn 2 more times in the ER.

The CAT scan took place at about 8:30 or 9:00.  They go through all of the side effects of the dye that they were going to inject me with.  I had a vague recollection of having this done before but for the life of me I can’t remember when. The test was done in a short period of time and it was back to my little ER room to wait for a bed.

When I finally went up to my room they put the monitor on me and left me alone – for about a half an hour.  Then my roommate was moved in.  Once she was settled I drifted off to sleep a little.  At 4:00 a nurse came in to take more blood.  At this point I had a screaming headache.  I questioned the reason for more blood tests  – I was just staying for another test.  She told me they needed it for the stress test.  She stuck me – got nothing.  She said she would call phlebotomy.  Half hour later another nurse comes in – stuck me again (ouch!), got nothing.  She said she would call phlebotomy.  About 5:00 I called the nurse and told her I had a really bad headache and was really nauseous.  They gave me Zofran IV for nausea and two Tylenol. While she was there she wanted to do the blood test.  I argued, told her to tell my dr. I was noncompliant but finally just relented, it was easier.

Now I have to tell you the top of my head felt as though it was going to just blow off.  This was the mother of all headaches.  I had told 3 RNs about this and they brought me two Tylenol – ooookaaay.   My dr. came in and I told him about this headache as well.  Let me see here, I couldn’t talk to him because I am in a fetal position because my head hurts so much.  I couldn’t open my eyes because the light bothers them  and he says I’ll get you a Tylenol with codeine.  Okay.  There’s something wrong with this picture.

Between the Zofran and the Tylenol I made it through the stress test.  I went back to my room and resumed the fetal position because my head was killing me.  Cardiologist after cardiologist came in to tell me that all of my tests are fine – sheesh.  I couldn’t really talk to them because the nausea had come back.  “Do you have a history of migraines?”  I do but they never last more than a few hours, I always have an aura involved and this headache is getting worse.

My dr. calls my room phone to say I’m going to discharge you now, everything looks fine.  When the nurse came in I told her that I think this has to be a reaction to the dye in the CAT scan considering when it started.  I told her this is the kind of headache I would be going to the ER for.  She says she’ll call my dr.  She comes back and says he wants me to have a double dose of Zofran and morphine.  REALLY?!?  I have a reaction to morphine and they all know it, that’s his solution.  Fine, do it, I have to get home.

I get the injections.  Okay, the morphine dulls the pain enough so I can get home, but the vomiting begins as I expected it would.

I leave the hospital around 6:00 PM and go directly to bed when I get home – along with all of the dogs who have missed me sooooo much (okay, that part was pretty nice).

The headache finally abated Thursday afternoon.

I am concerned and disgusted by the tunnel vision of all of the caregivers around me once I was on the floor.  The only thing they could look at was my heart and did not listen to a word I said about anything else.

What started out as some tests ended with me being quite ill.  All of the results were fine.  I still have no idea what happened, why I had those symptoms and my dr. says we will keep an eye on things.  Maybe I did something to my back, that’s his answer.  I should let him know if I have any other symptoms going forward.

I’ll be sure to do that.  Mmmhmmmm.  The problem I see here is if I have symptoms how bad do they have to be before I call anyone again.  This was a totally insane experience because my dr. freaked out about an elevated lab.  Obviously doctors these days NEVER spend time as patients.  Almost everyone that ran tests or took care of me was competent and nice except for the physicians.  There is something very, very wrong with the way this system works.  How can 6 physicians look at a patient in a fetal position, unable to function in any way and think that is okay?  My tests and labs are okay so I’m fine.

I was never so happy to get home to my bed and lick my own wounds.  Now, I can’t wait to see the bill.

An Opinion on Mental Health

Peony (2)

I’m feeling more than a little guilty about not posting as consistently as usual and I’m afraid this will not be the kind of uplifting post that I normally try to achieve.  We all have struggles in life and for that past 10 to 12 years we have struggled with my youngest daughter’s mental illness.  At this point I can only refer to it as a mental illness because I’m not sure what exactly it is.  She was diagnosed with Bipolar II a number of years ago and has been medicated ever since.  Unfortunately, as I’ve seen with other people with mental illness, medication is fine for a while but brain chemistry changes and the drugs they are taking are no longer effective.  For Cait, instead of really trying to figure out what the underlying problems were more drugs were added year after year to counter new symptoms.  Then drugs were added to counteract the side effects of the drugs she’d been prescribed.  A few weeks ago Cait hit a depression the depth of which I hadn’t seen before.  A week ago she stopped taking her meds because she just didn’t see the point in any of it any more.  On some level I can understand that.  She’s tired, so tired of all of it and the thought that this is a lifetime disability just made her stop functioning.  Her mental health team was horrified that she stopped taking her meds.  Friday she went to the hospital, asked for a psych evaluation and she was put into full hospitalization. (This was after she spent 34 hours in the ER in a solitary room with a guard and a recliner).  I’ve quoted what she said on FB before they took all electronics away from her.

You need to know that my Caitlyn is a brilliant woman with her masters in clinical mental health counseling.  This is a two-edged sword in a lot of ways.  She continually self diagnoses and now she’s in a situation where she’s observing and documenting everything that every mental health worker is saying and doing.  I think her hope is that she will either get a different diagnosis or a new medication regimen that will help her cope with what’s happening in her brain.  Cait is also a very strong, willful person and will make sure she understands what is happening while hospitalized and will not settle for some off the cuff diagnosis or medication changes.  She is already questioning the drugs they are giving her.  God help the people taking care of her, she will make each and every one of them question their diagnosis and probably their career choice as well.

When I read the quote below I understood exactly what she was saying and was seeing the mental health system for what it is first hand.  When the tragedy at Sandy Hook took place the first thing I said was the perpetrator and his mother had been seriously let down by the mental health system in the US.  There is not enough funding, and it continues to be cut daily.  Once an unstable individual reaches 18 a parents’ hands are tied.  We are no longer privy to any information of any kind and cannot make life or death decisions that ultimately affect our children.  They have to be coerced.  Cait committed herself “voluntarily” only after realizing that she really had no choice and I was the one who had to drive her there and make her do it.  Harsh.  This is one of those moments when I truly wish things in my life were different.

“And now I know why we have people who end up being on the assailant end of mass shootings and bombings (not that I didn’t already know this and I am absolutely NOT excusing any of that behavior but…) …ya know, we wonder why all this stuff has continued to happen and has probably gotten much worse lately…honestly, take a look at the state of the worlds friggin mental health system!! ESPECIALLY the United States!! I mean, seriously?? Are you really stupid enough to believe that those things would have still happened if we actually VALUED and PAID ATTENTION to those that are in or need to be in the mental health system in this country?? Wake the fuck up! Stop CUTTING the mental health budget and dont bother putting all this time and effort into friggin gun control laws because honestly it’s almost to the point of no return on that front…why don’t we put our time and energy into fixing the true ROOT of the problem instead of just glossing over it and making he issue about weapons…if people want weapons, they will find them…or make them. It doesn’t matter whether there are laws about their possession and such! That’s not going to stop someone. Why don’t the people of this country open their friggin eyes and look at the REAL problem here?! Our mental health system SERIOUSLY blows!! But then again, I already know, people are stupid. Guess I forgot. Lol (rant over. Sorry everyone! Just seriously annoyed, as a mental health professional and someone that knows the value of mental health services…if you disagree, I’m not trying to start an argument so don’t try to start one with me. Thank you.)” Caitlyn Semanie

For the time being Cait has her journal and a pen that gets assigned to her with each shift.  She is surrounded by insanity the likes of which she has never seen.  When I visited her yesterday she said, “I think there will be a book coming out of this and I may have to become an activist for mental health care.”  Watch out, when Cait says something like this she means it.  And I can’t wait to read that book.