As with part one of this post I am going to warn you now, it will contain graphic content, if your eating stop reading now, if you have easily offended sensibilities this post is not for you. The language contained in the post will be a little fruity, think drunken sailor on crack! I apologise in advance but this is going to be a “real life” post and there will be no fluffy bunnies or unicorns featured within it. This is what its like to be chronically ill.
If you want to know what an absolute bitch of disorder EDS can be and you aren’t afraid of the mention of lady parts continue.
* * * *
After the doctor had finally cannulated me and got the blood she needed she got the nurse to draw up three different drugs. The first was Zofran (generic name Ondansetron) an anti sickness medication, the second was oramorph and the third was buscopan. As soon as the nurse started to inject the Zofran my arm was on fire. I have had IV meds that had stung / burned before but she had given no warning this would do so. As she then put the buscopan in the burning got even worse and I started to scratch at my arm. As she got halfway through administering the morphine I told her to stop. She told me “morphine can make you itchy” I told her “I take morphine regularly but it doesn’t make my arm itch, it makes my legs and abdomen itch”. She then said she would flush the cannula to see if that helped at all, it made it worse and I begged her to stop. As I looked at my arm every vein had turned bright red and the underside of my arm from the wrist to above the elbow looked like it had been scalded by boiling water.
The nurse promptly checked my blood pressure which was fine (actually a little high for me at 114/80 but I was in pain) and then left the room for 20 minutes. Now as I always say I am not a medical expert but if someone is having a violent reaction to a medication and has nearly been in anaphylaxis before, would the “safe” thing to do be to leave them in a room with the door shut and unable to call for help if the reaction got worse? My answer would be no but apparently thats a perfectly safe thing to do at my local hospital.
I kept setting off alarms on the monitoring equipment, when I am very tired or in pain I stop taking breaths. Its not deliberate but its like my body forgets to breathe. My oxygen saturation did not drop below 100% (which as a smoker and sometimes heavy smoker I was pleased about) but I was now going for over a minute without taking a breath, the alarm sounds at under 8 breaths a minute. This isn’t the first time I have set monitoring equipment off in this department and every time it provokes no response from the medical staff. Thats a little disconcerting when you are in the middle of an allergic reaction!
Eventually the nurse came back into the room with a porter and I was informed I was being moved up to a ward. The nurse that had been “treating” me, seemed to have a compulsion to pull on the catheter tubing at every available opportunity, despite me telling her that this really hurt.
I have no pain at all when a catheter is fitted (which is odd as on some websites the pain associated with this is on a level with a lumbar puncture). My pain starts as soon as the balloon which keeps the catheter in place is inflated. After that for about 12 hours I can’t sit down without pain and any slight tug or knock of the tube is excruciating. Despite telling the nurse this it seemed to be her mission to mess about with the tubing at every opportunity. So yet again I was in agony due to someone else either a) disbelieving what I was telling them or b) she just didn’t care.
I thought I would be heading for EMU (emergency Medical Unit) which is an awful ward to be on. The nurses are terrible on this ward, having been on it on several occasions, I can tell you a crash course in empathy, compassion and the basics of nursing is needed. Instead I was going onto a “proper” ward with proper nurses you know the caring kind that Florence herself would be proud of.
I was seen by the nurse on this ward within minutes of being admitted. I am really sorry but I can’t remember her name. She was a bubbly blonde woman with a lovely brummie accent. She did everything properly, I was asked about my mobility, how they could help me (with toileting, washing and dressing), who my next of kin was, religion, diet and how my bowels worked etc. This is how it is supposed to be done, by someone who asks probing questions and assumes nothing. This nurse and the other nurses and healthcare assistants on this ward are a credit to the hospital and if I am honest had I not had that kind of nursing care I would have discharged myself.
I probably sound like a stickler for rules and possibly a person with aspergers tendencies. I am not that person, I do however get infuriated by laziness and assumptions. Laziness and assumptions don’t provide good medical care. As a medical professional you need to listen and understand your patient. If they don’t do that I start to lose faith in their abilities. A patient is a person, not a condition or a plaything for you to practice your skills on. Treat me with courtesy, respect and that I am not an idiot and it will go a long way. Treat me as if I am below average intelligence and without respect and you will have a hostile patient on your hands. Its a shame more medical professionals don’t apply that approach, yes they have medical knowledge but learning about a disease or condition does not make you the expert. Living with it 24/7 does.
At around 1am I saw a student doctor. Now normally I enjoy interacting with student doctors, they are young, enthusiastic and eager to absorb any information they can about a condition they haven’t come across before. This one seemed to have a language processing deficit, not ideal. Again despite telling her the catheter had only been fitted the day before, the conversation seemed to be a little like the film groundhog day. I dont know why it was impossible to believe that it had been fitted on Friday, it was now the early hours of Sunday. But she was insistent the catheter had been in for a week. I wish that I had brought in the paperwork from the district nurse when I set off to hospital as clearly as a patient I was unable to distinguish 24 hours from a week. Maybe she had the assumption that as I used a wheelchair my disability was mental rather than physical?
As a good patient and a professional sick person I had brought all my medication with me. Yet despite all this the student doctor added medications that I don’t take to my drug chart and got the dosages incorrect. Despite having all the pharmacy labels on them. How that is possible? I am at a loss to understand.
She was very through in her exam, my abdomen was palpated and my chest was listened to. She then did a basic neurological exam, checking the power in my legs and my reflexes. It startled her that my left leg was cold whilst my right leg was hot. Again having repeatedly told them that my autonomic nervous system is screwed, I couldn’t understand why this would be so “amazing”.
I am interested in medicine I always have been. Plus without this basic understanding I would never have discovered what was wrong with me. However she nearly died of shock when I told her that I knew she was checking for cauda-equina-syndrome. I knew that this check would culminate with a finger being inserted into my rectum. Having had numerous operations on my bowels no hospital visit would be complete without this examination!
She disappeared outside the curtain and then returned with a nurse. I asked “are you selling tickets?” the nurse laughed but the joke seemed lost on the doctor. As I assumed the finger up your bottom position, the nurse tried to explain what was happening, I interrupted explaining this wasn’t the first time I had been subjected to this examination. The weirdest thing about it was you have to grab the inserted finger with the muscles of your anus. It takes a little bit of thinking about as its not something one does on a regular basis. I passed with flying colours, although I am a little unsure if thats something to boast about?
Doctors that treat me are always obsessed about constipation due to the opiates I take. I rarely suffer from constipation I can open my bowels up to four times a day, despite all the morphine I take. I am coming to the conclusion that this annoys them as I should be on a diet of laxatives like most people would be when they take opiates. The only thing that does make me constipated is codeine.
As she whipped her finger out of my rectum she said ” Your rectum is completely empty, you’re not constipated”. Now having informed the doctor of the fact I don’t suffer with constipation, this wasn’t a surprise to me. My bowels are so regular you could set your watch by them. Sometimes like on early Saturday morning when my bowel had switched off on the Friday as my bladder had done, it went into freak operating mode and I was stuck on the toilet for 90 minutes. Again the doctor wouldn’t believe me that I didn’t have diarrhea, it was normal stuff. I wanted to place a bet with her that at 8am I would have a normal poo but as she hadn’t listened to anything I had said previously it would have been a wasted effort. And yes bang on 8am I had a poo (in case you were wondering!).
As this student doctor was on a surgical rotation I expected her to have a little knowledge about surgery – silly me. She had clearly read my notes as when she saw the scar on my stomach she asked if that was from the intussusception at age 3. I told her no, that was a scar from having adhesions removed in 1998 and subsequent exploratory operations, the last one being in 2002. She then spent a couple of minutes looking at my abdomen. She said to me “I can’t see any scars form laparoscopic surgery”.
Despite it being gone 1am, I knew I was dealing with an idiot (or if I wasnt writing a blog a FW – you work out that abbreviation!). Surgery increases your risk of adhesions by about 50%, I had already told her I had adhesions removed in 1998 – so thats 2 surgeries. Once you have bad adhesions, as I do, laparoscopic surgery isn’t possible. A student on a surgical rotation should know this, its a basic piece of knowledge. Plus if she had felt my scar and around belly button you can actually feel the thickening of the tissue and the bottom of my scar is tethered meaning it goes through the skin and has stuck to the abdominal wall. Maybe it was her first day but I wasn’t the one pretending to be the expert. Which is what annoys me about some doctors, they poo poo (pardon the pun!) what you tell them as they can’t stand it when the gaping holes in their knowledge are exposed.
As we were going through my medications the doctor asked me if I was allergic to IV morphine. I nearly choked, I asked her why she had said that, apparently the nurse from A & E had written in my notes I was allergic to it. I angrily pointed out that as I had been taking morphine for two years ( shoved the packet under her nose) and buscopan all day (that packed was waved at her also) didn’t she find it more likely that the reaction I had suffered would have come from an IV medication that I had never had before? To me that seems logical but apparently not for this doctor. I asked her to write the name of the anti sickness medication down to ensure that I am never given it again, which she did.
The ward was noisy and sleep was elusive. I came to the conclusion that I would have had more sleep had I curled up on the floor of Paddington station. Patients were in and out all night. Doctors were taking medical histories at 3 in the morning. It was a hive of activity but a place of sleep it was not.
Overnight I had drained 1800ml into the catheter bag, another impressive feat. I had less pain, no spasms and was in general feeling a lot better. When I am feeling better I want to go home and not linger.
As no one had secured my medications in the bedside locker, I self medicated my morning tablets. I had already missed my evening ones and due to that my back was throwing its usual hissy fit when it comes into contact with a hospital mattress. Yes you heard right on this ward controlled drugs were not confiscated on admission. On this ward the nurses gave me the “self medicating” disclaimer form to sign and then put my medications into a locker. They checked through my drug chart to ensure that I had taken everything and thats when we discovered the student doctor had entered medications on my chart that I didn’t take. I explained to the nurse the error, it didn’t seem to come as a surprise to her, which was worrying. She asked me what doctor I had seen “was it the one with the red hair?” Obviously her reputation precedes her.
Breakfast was served just after 8am and as it was the first thing I had eaten in close to 24 hours I then promptly fell asleep due to a post prandial hypotension episode. I was woken up by the sound of voices, my case was being discussed whilst I slept. As a patient it was quite clear my actual presence wasn’t necessary.
On seeing that I had come to the Surgeon in charge introduced himself. Then the idiot student doctor continued her patient presentation. I watched her and as she said “This patient has been diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome hypermobility type, the patient states she also has autonomic nervous system dysfunction” she paused and rolled her eyes.
As she was stood to the side of me, I think she thought I couldn’t see what she had just done. I don’t state I have ANS dysfunction my medical records do and the medical tests I have endured prove it. If they don’t believe the diagnosis how on earth can they look after me? This was like a red rag to a bull and I hoisted myself up so that I was no longer lying flat on my back.
The surgeon then said ” right we are white carding you to urology, who you will see tomorrow and then we will go from there”. I then responded with “I am sorry, I am sure you’re a lovely person but I am not staying. I dont play the hospital game of lying around waiting for a department to fit me in. My plan is you take the catheter out, I prove I can urinate and then I go home.”
There was a collective gasp from the junior doctors who had accompanied the surgeon to my bedside. He responded with ” You can’t go home, you are in urinary retention”
Me: ” No you don’t seem to understand me, the catheter is coming out and I am going home”
S: ” You are being stupid, you’ve had two bouts of urinary retention in 48 hours”
To which after being called stupid I said
” The catheter caused the last bout of urinary retention by causing my bladder to go into spasm. I want it out and I am going home”
By this point I was incredibly angry at being called stupid, I don’t think a doctor has ever called me stupid before, well not to my face, possibly hidden away in my notes somewhere. Had he actually asked my opinion and explained his position instead of presenting it as a fait accompli I would have listened. But he was an idiot and continued
S :”You’re being stupid, I will let you go home but you have to keep the catheter in”
Me :” No I am going home, you are taking the catheter out and then you are referring me as an outpatient to urology. I don’t do hospitals and I don’t feel safe here”
S: “You’re being stupid, you won’t be able to urinate once the catheter is removed”
Me: “If the catheter is removed and I can’t urinate, I will stay. If not I am going home.”
At this point the surgeon, who I believe had never had his authority questioned before gave up.
“Get the catheter out and she can go home” He then flounced off taking his minions with him.
I will state for the record here I am not a doctor and I am not suggesting I know better than the doctors caring for me. If you are in acute urinary retention you need medical help and you need it quickly. I take responsibility for my own actions. I strongly urge you to follow your own doctors advice.
However lets look at the facts
– my bladder was no longer in spasm
– the catheter had drained 1800 mls overnight and was continuing to drain, therefore I was no longer in urinary retention.
– the second bout of urinary retention had been caused by the catheter either a) being blocked or b) the valve at the base of my bladder clamping down on the catheter.
– The student doctor had written my drugs chart incorrectly
-The medical staff had no basic understanding of EDS and the fact my bladder can stretch well beyond the size of most individuals making it floppy when emptied and likely to block the catheter again, leading to more painful spasms which I wanted to avoid.
– I had suffered an allergic reaction to IV Zofran and it had been ignored.
– They wouldn’t believe me when I told them the catheter had only been in since Friday.
– I had been left in excruciating pain for over an hour in A & E. When it was actually a quick fix.
– And the one that sealed the deal, they didn’t believe that my ANS is screwed
Ask yourself if you would feel safe in that environment? Would you want to stay?
I know I am not a medical professional but I knew that there was nothing to be gained from staying in hospital other than back pain.
Within minutes of the doctor leaving my bedside the nurses had removed my cannula and my catheter. As the nurse was removing my catheter she whispered ” I don’t think anyone has ever stood up to him before, well done. You manage your illness brilliantly and we know that you can go home safely. Just promise me if you can’t urinate, you won’t go home”
I solemnly promised her that I would let her know if I couldn’t wee and wouldnt leave the hospital if that was the case. I also promised that If I had any issues at all that I would return. I told her I wasn’t stupid but I wasn’t staying either.
A weaker more vulnerable patient may have been intimidated by the surgeon and his groupies. Unfortunately the older I get the less impressed I am. Having dealt with surgeons before I know that unless they can cut it out and play operation, they rapidly lose interest and then you are palmed off to another ward. Or left without a treatment plan for days on end. I wont play the hospital game anymore. I maybe coming across as rude or arrogant but I know my body, my body doesn’t follow the rules laid out in medical textbooks and until I meet doctors who actually believe in my illness and have taken the time to educate themselves, I don’t trust them, its as simple as that. To me it would be like treating a diabetic having no knowledge about the disease / condition process. The outcome wouldn’t be good, well my condition is the same.
I did not feel that my condition warranted a hospital stay, most of which would have been massively unproductive as I have since found out my local hospital has no urology cover every other weekend. The earliest I would have been seen was sometime on Monday. At home I can manage my condition and I have a treatment plan as I consulted my gp first thing on Monday morning. Who agreed with my decision to leave – in case you are wondering.
I escaped from hospital with the aide of the nurses by 1020am. I didn’t wait for my discharge papers as one of the nurses had warned me they would mess me about producing them. They would either be emailed or sent to my gp. Having been in this situation before I knew it could be 2pm before I received them due to the doctors doing their rounds and writing up any orders for the nurses for all the patients they had seen.
I got a hug and a kiss from the nurse who had been looking after me. I know I wasn’t there to win a popularity contest but I think it speaks volumes when a nurse treats you like this.
I have emailed a complaint to my local hospital and they now have 45 days to cover it up, investigate it.
I am home and now living in fear of it happening again. Every time I struggle to urinate or get the burning pain at the top of my pubic bone I wonder if its starting again. Its not a fun way to live.
I have included two links below which I have found incredibly useful and they explain a bit about acute urinary retention and the catheterisation process. As acute urinary retention doesn’t happen that often in females (other than post operatively or due to infection) it was difficult to find information relative to me.
Thanks for reading.