As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column for the Waterford News & Star
ALL night long, a man moans and sighs while a woman shouts. Help! she says, I need help! The nurse gives a heads up, we have a few shouters here but don’t worry about them.
My bed is parked between the Nurses’ Station and the store room, on a busy corridor. It’s a step up from the trolley in the Emergency Department. I even have, not one, but two pillows. Pillows are as rare as hen’s teeth the nurses have told me all day whenever I asked for one.
Unfortunately, I will end up living on this corridor like a sick and homeless bag lady for many days to come. I will get to know the comings and goings of everyone on it, and lose every last shred of dignity as I am observed day and night, trying to cope.
I have an infection, will need a scan and possibly all sorts of other interventions. I’m feeling so sick that I don’t care what they do to me. Just fix me I want to say. After waiting for six hours in the ED, I am seen by a whole plethora of doctors. I lose count. I trot out the symptoms, my history, how I feel to each of them. Over and over again. They are working hard to diagnose the terrible pain I am in.
Eventually I’m connected to drips and given pain killers. The system has been there all the time, and now that I am well beyond my limit it all kicks in. But like everything in our health system, all that happens is I go into yet another queue. Later I learn that waiting times reached 16 hours over that weekend.
That night I am told I will be admitted. And now here I am, camping in this corridor waiting for a CT scan. No one can tell me when it will be. It could be today, tomorrow or the next day. The Doc who wears the suit says, “it is something we have no control over.” I suspect because of the way he says it, that this must be doctor code for deep, deep frustration.
Everyone, and I mean everyone is so lovely. They are all equally compassionate, knowledgeable, cautious and kind; the team of doctors, the nurses and staff on the ward, the women who bring the food.
Many utterly sleepless nights follow. I become sleep deprived and confused. I still haven’t had the scan when the medical team taking care of me pay a visit. I plead my case. I am weak, tired and sick. I am also now a complete basket case.
They listen with patience. They have heard it all before. And even though I know there are worse cases, emergencies and life-saving reasons why I have to wait, I feel very, very sorry for myself.
Everything is new and has to be figured out. You are on your own in hospital these days. A laundry trolley is in front of me, the nurses with their wooden carts scoot up and down, the porters rattle along with wheelchairs. I have nowhere to put anything. I have no tray, no locker. The women serving me my meals put the trays on the bed. I have a picnic on my lap. Visitors pass up and down. Some smile, saying, are you still here? I am and I’m sick, sore and tired.
But so many patients are worse. The staff are run off their feet. I joke with them about this strange hospital chaos they exist in. It’s all so familiar that they don’t really see the strangeness of it. Meanwhile I am told my scan will happen. After all this time, I am relieved.
The scan confirms the infection. The antibiotics are poured into my veins. The clatter of the corridor never ends.
I gaze out the window at the new wing; state of the art, pristine and empty. I am raging to think of the waste, the families who can’t benefit, how vulnerable we are in Waterford when we are ill.
I’m weary and fading out here. Day 5 and I am still waiting for a bed. I suspect I won’t ever see the inside of a proper ward. The screaming for help goes on night and day. There isn’t a family in the county who hasn’t gone through this experience. It’s just the way it is with our current health system. It is really a very sick system at this stage.
Our hospital is not a healing environment when it is this short staffed and overcrowded. We deserve better. We’ve all heard it a million times. We’ve had the protests and done the lobbying.
But all I can do now that I’m the one here on the corridor, is hang in and hope I get better soon.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com