This weekend I could have lost my life because of terrible emergency room care, a Registered Nurse not Doctor making a diagnosis, short staffing and a
hospital putting the all mighty dollar ahead of my life.
I am one of those people that has a hard time taking no for an answer, I'm also really lucky to have a supportive husband who will advocate for me
until he is blue in the face. Thankfully we didn't let the ER turn me away as they tried multiple times to do on 9/29/2014
In 2003 I was diagnosed with Addison's
It's an autoimmune disease that has completely destroyed my adrenal cortex and I have to take life long steroid replacement to live.
Stress can exacerbate the condition and send me in to what's called an
Addisonian Crisis (Acute Adrenal Crisis)
and the symptoms are very
•nausea or abdominal pain
•loss of appetite
•dramatic changes in blood pressure
•rashes of the skin
•an irregularly high heart rate
With all the stress in my life from the South Napa Quake and being laid off as a result, I've been majorly stressed out and went in to an adrenal
crisis. I was treated in the local ER on 9/25 twice and 9/27 for that Addison's Crisis. The doctors gave me no discharge instructions on my steroid
dosage and instead of doubling up on my dose (as I should have been instructed) I tapered down. Meaning I took 625mg of hydrocortisone when I should
have taken 150mg over the weekend.
Needless to say I was not feeling good and went to the ER again on Monday September 29th at 11:30am with:
•hadn't slept in 48 hours
•couldn't quench my thirst
By 2:30pm, I still hadn't been called back in to the ER and everyone that came in before me had and almost everyone that came in after me had. I
asked the nurse how much longer it would be. She replied to me:
We see you for these "fits" all the time.
By fits I guess she meant Addison's Crisis's and I'm not seen all the time, they're
quite rare and I haven't had one in over a few years. She made me feel like I was being seen for a mental breakdown and this was said in front of the
12 other people in the ER waiting room. Unacceptable.
So I left the ER and walked to the administration department to get some assistance. One of the admins that handles "complaints" came back to the ER
with me, explained that I needed to be seen and suggested an EKG. About 20 minutes later I was hooked up to the EKG and it was given a quick 5 second
run. I was instructed to sit back in the waiting room and wait to be called back to see a doctor.
At 3pm a nurse came out to me in the waiting room and said:
Look around you, we are busy, you are stable and can go.
I couldn't understand how they could deem me stable without a blood draw since I had taken so many
of my hydrocortisone (steroids.)
My confusion and steroid overdose had not been addressed, they simply gave me the EKG.
So I called my husband told him that a Nurse had deemed me "stable" and had told me they were "busy and I could go." Understandably he was angry
and told me he'd be right down, and he was there in like 10 minutes. We went back to administration to complain. They again brought me to the ER and
told me I had to re-register since I had been discharged. So I did. It's 4:00pm at this point, again I had been there since 11:30am.
At 4:30pm I was finally called back in to the ER and put in the back corner room, they closed the door and again forgot about me. At 5:30 I asked WTF
was going on. I was so confused and was having visual and auditory hallucinations, I though it may have been from the high dosage of steroids and not
the fact I had been awake for 48 hours. They finally ran my bloodwork and at 7pm I was told that my potassium was a level 2.6L. That is life
Normally, your blood potassium level is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A very low potassium level (less than 2.5 mmol/L) can be
life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.
Symptoms of low potassium:
•Weakness, tiredness, or cramping in arm or leg muscles, sometimes severe enough to cause inability to move arms or legs due to weakness (much like
•Tingling or numbness
•Nausea or vomiting
•Abdominal cramping, bloating
•Palpitations (feeling your heart beat irregularly)
•Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
Fainting due to low blood pressure
•Abnormal psychological behaviour: depression, psychosis, delirium, confusion or hallucinations.
The doctor then told me if I was concerned I could go to the local urgent care clinic and they could admit me to the hospital. Again, I was confused
and didn't understand why the ER couldn't admit me and I would need to be seen at a low income clinic. My husband was never called, as he should
have been due to my hallucinations and confusion as he's my emergency contact. I was not in a state of mind to make that decision as a physician
should have known.
The next day I called the hospital to voice my concerns about the quality of care and HIPPA violations. My call was not returned. I called the next
day, again no call. So I went to the hospital to talk to someone about it. I was told the doctor thought I should have been admitted but I had told
him "I want to go home and go to sleep." And I had told him that after I was told "if you're worried about it go to the clinic and they
admit you. I explained to the admin that my husband should have been called as I was suffering from delirium from low potassium and didn't understand
why the ER couldn't admit me to their own hospital.
My husband should have been called to make the decision about me being admitted, not a patient suffering from confusion with auditory and visual
So basically they were busy and a nurse decided I didn't need to be seen, not a doctor. Unacceptable.
Had I not stood up for myself and/or didn't have my husband to advocate in my behalf, I would most likely be dead right now because of their
I've got a complaint pending with the hospital, they're going to use it as a "training opportunity." Are you kidding me? Training? That angered me
so much that I've also got a claim pending with my insurance, will be calling the state on Monday and also filing a HIPPA complaint, formally.
Don't ever let the Emergency Room push you out, legally they are not supposed to refuse service.
I feel I was refused service and almost lost my life because the hospital is so short staffed. If it happened to me, it's happening to other people
and that is something I will not stand for. Would they push out my grandmother, my friend or neighbor who is afraid to speak up for themselves? Not on
my watch! This hospital pushed out the wrong patient!
*Mods: I wasn't sure if this was a rant or a medical issue. I put it here because Emergency Rooms are not supposed to refuse service in the US. If
it's in the wrong forum feel free to move it.