It had been three days. Three days of pain that forced a grown woman down on the floor, in the fetal position, screaming. I've felt this pain before. Every month my endometriosis symptoms kick into full gear and last for a few days. As the days pass the pain usually subsides until there is little or no pain, but this time it's as though my body decided that a day's worth of pure torture wasn't enough. That third day I was so incredibly desperate for relief, and I'd already tried everything I knew to relieve pain. All that I knew would not suffice. All that I knew wasn't enough to tame the torture weapon lodged inside my gut. How do you endure three days of debilitating pain? I gave in and went the hospital...
My Hospital Experience
My mother wheeled me into the emergency room and I could feel people's eyes trailing my sorry state. My limbs trembled and my stomach lurched as my lower abdomen seemed to scream at me in pain. I was wheeled through some doors further into the emergency room, and I could feel empty stares from all of the nurses on their current shift. A nurse glanced at me and quickly blurted, "What's wrong? Is she pregnant?" I didn't have the strength to respond, for the room seemed to be spinning into a deep spiral all leading back to the unbearable labor type pains I was feeling.
My mother quickly explained to the nurse that I had Chronic Lyme Disease and I had been in this frightening state for three days now, to which the nurse replied, "Chronic Lyme disease... What's that? What's it actually called?" I didn't have time to process the amount of ignorance that hung in the air that moment. My mother responded, "It's called Chronic Lyme Disease," to which the nurse replied, "Oh, it must be a disease then." The nurse quickly helped me into a hospital bed, took my vitals, and promptly left the room, saying she would be back.
I sat screaming in agonizing pain in that room for a good hour before they came back to administer pain medication. The nurse that gave me my IV told me to breathe slower and then made it very clear to me that "it gets much worse from here." I sat in that room for what felt like endless hours while snail paced nurses supposedly did their job. A few tests, and endless hours later the doctor came in, told me that according to the blood tests, nothing was wrong with me, and informed me that I needed to take ibuprofen. He admitted he knew very little about Lyme Disease and didn't quite understand how bacteria could invade your uterus. I was incredibly relieved when the nurse finally told me that I could go home. I pulled my aching and trembling body out of the hospital bed, and my parents held me up as we walked out to the car. It’s amazing how a night in the emergency room can make you incredibly grateful for your own bed, and the security that comes from being under your own roof.
To the Nurses in the Emergency Room
When I was fifteen I went to the emergency room for generally the same reason, during that experience I recall nurses that acted quickly. I recall how nurses promptly administered my IV, pain medication, and tests. I recall a doctor that spoke to us respectfully and professionally, and nurses that tried to fulfill my needs as a patient as quickly as they could.
Given the massive difference in experiences, I'm left with this devastating inquiry: What has our medical system come to?
When did we get to the point where the first assumption is that I’m pregnant? When did we become so ignorant that we haven’t even heard of certain “not so rare” chronic illnesses? When did we get to the point where instead of sharing words of encouragement and hope, we spread words of fear and irritation such as “it will only get worse from here so breathe slower”?
I can honestly say that there once was a time where "STAT" meant right away, and a time where the emergency room actually treated serious medical problems as an emergency. Part of me wonders if I had never said certain words like, "Lyme Disease" or "endometriosis" if they would have treated me differently. Or maybe they treat all of their patients like old dish water. Honestly the whole time I felt like the monkey exhibit at the zoo. To the people that were supposedly "helping" me, for them it isn't about helping people. For them this is just their day job.
There was one nurse in particular that I remember. She came to retrieve my insurance information and afterwards she asked if I needed anything. I felt heavy from the strong pain medication, and the room felt like a freezer. I asked for socks and a blanket, and to adjust my bed. That nurse was the one nurse who actually treated me like a human being. She acted quickly and told me that seeing me brought back memories for her. To that nurse, thank you for being a decent human being and showing compassion for a patient who really needed it at that moment.
To all the rest of the nurses: you’re really missing the point of your job.
So What are We Missing?
My point in writing this is not to say that all nurses and doctors are like the aforementioned ones above. My point is not to say that I’m easily offended and “how dare these people treat me like garbage!” My point is to say that a trip to the emergency room is hard enough for people who are suffering. The last thing we need is for doctors and nurses to make it more difficult for us.
Hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, etc. are reputed to be places of healing. Places where people come for help from these nurses and doctors. What is our medical system if we aren’t actually giving help to people in need? I am sick. I have a bacterial infection which spreads to other organs in my body, and yet they act as though I’m a foreign object. If you don’t believe my pain, my disease, or my screams, I don’t know how else I can convince you. All I can say is that for people who spend a large amount of time and money on medical school, I think maybe some time and money need to be spent on common sense school, or kindness school, or charity school. Not only that, but why does medical school neglect to teach our medical professionals about very common bacterial infections? I am not the only one suffering from this. There are thousands suffering like me. Ignorance and arrogance are the worst combination.
So what’s missing? What are we all missing that maybe needs to be added to our medical curriculum? I can name a few:
We deserve better. We all deserve better. God didn’t intend for us to live in a world deficient of love and kindness. As people we have an obligation to treat each other better. My message to you today would be to “try a little harder to be a little better.” If we all showed a little more love in our professions I think the world would be a better place.