My 16 hours at the Accidents and Emergency department
(Update: The A&E experience was not ideal, but the medical professionals, nurses and doctors, were in their majority brilliant – polite, reassuring, accommodating – despite working in a really difficult, chaotic environment. I’m now in the ward for respiratory issues and they are taking great care of me. The post is an extract from my diary of July 3rd, where I documented my experience at the A&E – it should definitely not reflect bad on the medical professionals or to my current treatment. The A&E system is problematic, obviously underfunded and understaffed, and needs to be improved.)
Things escalated in the past 24 hours. My leg pain, initially caused by a tendonitis, has been increasing for a week now, despite using crunches. The pain weirdly shifted from the foot to the lower leg. My physiotherapist, with whom I had booked a session for Friday afternoon, immediately detected that something is not right and arranged an urgent appointment with the orthopaedic. A couple of hours later, I was examined by the orthopaedic who referred me for an ultrasound, which showed an acute thrombosis at my lower leg. After consulting among them, the doctors issued a verdict: I should stay in bed, take blood thinners and heavy-duty pain killers, and wait it out. Their reassurance failed to mask their alarm — the prospect of a blood clot moving to the lungs, remote as it is, remains serious. I took the blood thinners but not the addictive opioids. The doctor ordered blood tests and sent me home, advising that if I feel shortness of breath or acute pain, I should visit the Accidents and Emergency department. I inquired what sort of pain would classify as intense, given that I was already in agony. The feedback was “pain that would make you cry”. And cry I did, around 3:30am when I got out of bed to go to the loo. The pain was so sharp that reduced me initially to tears and then to sobs. Now I’m in the waiting area of the A&E, already more than two hours in waiting. The doctor responsible for the triaging, upon hearing of the blood clot, very proudly announced that she has not been vaccinated. Judging from the crowd in the waiting area, I’ll be here a long while. People have been waiting for more than four to five hours.
It’s now three hours later and I’m still waiting. Adding insult to injury, a man, I think a nurse, announced to everyone that many people have come and gone over the night without an examination, an indication for him that they were not in urgent need of care. He didn’t even entertain the prospect that some people may have indeed been in need of attention. He, of course, did not acknowledge his share in this chain of unbearable responsibility. He didn’t even have the basic decency to put himself in the shoes of others less fortunate than his stupid self — people who must care for others or who must go to work to bring food on the table and thus do not have the luxury to wait for 6-7 hours until they are seen by a health professional of the Republic of Cyprus. I’m upset.
Four hours later, I’m still waiting. Reportedly I’m next in line. We are not really living in a developed country, aren’t we?
I was seen by a doctor at 8am. He gave me a pain killer through a drip, did a cardiograph and loads of blood tests. Now it’s 11:30am and I’m still at the A&E. The results of the blood exams just came out and they confirm the blood clots. State doctors seem quite reluctant to accept the findings of private sector doctors. I don’t blame them to be honest.
It’s now 12 noon and another doctor — a pathologist this time — came to tell me that they will not discharge me; rather, they will admit me in order to run some further tests, hoping to understand how this blood clot emerged. The first was a CT scan of my lungs, which is their top concern. Surprisingly the CT was scheduled quickly. By 12:30 I was done.
Hospitals are weird places where the ordinary and the extraordinary exist in harmony; where people die or get a couple of stitches, where a doctor can take a life-defining decision while thinking about dinner. I guess everything is ordinary.
It’s now 2:15pm and I just got the results of the CT scan. To sum things up: FUCK, FUCK, FUCK. Apparently I have a pulmonary embolism. I’ll be now transferred to a different department and people are considerably more alarmed. Shit.
The pneumonologist visited and did yet another blood test. She then told me that they would study the documentation and decide whether to admit me, pointing out how busy they are. I was surprised and told her that her colleague, the pathologist, actually admitted me for a much simpler, straightforward issue. And that the discussion with the pathologist took place just minutes earlier. The pneumonologist then got a bit patronising, effectively repeating the same thing, trying to “explain” her process to me. I firmly replied that I very well understand what she is saying (thank you very much), slipping in that I have a PhD (I’m dressed like a homeless person) and then made the same point again. She then went on to discuss with her boss and came back to announce that they would admit me. I thanked her and told her that I would otherwise feel insecure. But it’s 4:30pm and I’m still at the A&E waiting — 12 hours, but who’s counting, right?
The most recent development is that I will be admitted after a cardiologist does an echo cardiogram. To spice things up, they moved me to the fucking corridor. Whoever passes by is taking a cheeky look at me. Absolute indignity. Hours later, at 7:30pm, I’m still in the corridor waiting for the cardiologist. The pneumonologist is not willing to admit me without the clearance of the former — I tried. As if not enough, I now have an unpleasant feeling on my chest. I told the doctor and he subsequently asked a nurse to administer a blood thinning injection directly to my belly. Not as painful as I feared. The hierarchy of the A&E would be fascinating if I didn’t want to murder everyone.
Sunshine is such a rock. She drove me to the hospital at 4:30am. I bullied her into leaving and she did, only to return back around 9am. She was then asked to leave and returned once more in the afternoon, this time with food. Most importantly, she was texting me questions that I needed to ask the various doctors, which I could not think in the midst of the pain.
The cardiologist came around 8pm and did the echo. It lasted five minutes, banter inclusive. It’s now nearly 9pm and I’m still at the A&E. They are apparently waiting for an empty bed at the ward. How is this ok? I’m here since 4:30am. For fuck’s sake, that’s more than 16 hours.
I finally left the A&E and have been assigned a hospital bed. It’s past 9pm and I’m exhausted. Sunshine is so tired that she couldn’t drive home and her parents had to pick her up. I’m surprisingly not feeling sorry for myself. I’m a bit worried, but not too much. Let’s hope for a better tomorrow.
A&E Thrombosis Nicosia General Hospital Pulmonary embolism Accidents and emergency