While preparing a salad, I reached for the refrigerator door at a bad angle, it swung open widely, and I smashed against a nearby doorway, fracturing three ribs in my back. As soon as I could talk I yelled to my husband, “Cover the salad and put it in the refrigerator!”
An ambulance responded in fewer than five minutes. Unable to move, I had to be lifted onto a board. Soon I found myself in the St. Agnes Emergency Room hallway on a busy Sunday from 2-9 p.m. talking to Father Carl, a deacon for the Armenian Church, who kindly offered a prayer in Hebrew for me.
Finally, I was told I was next in line, moved to an X-ray table, then back to the bed and finally to a room. My pain and fear were so great that I had no idea I was attacking my rescuers. I scratched one’s face, broke the skin on another’s arm with my nails, and pinched a nurse.
I spent 5½ days at Saint Agnes, where everyone was uniformly kind and caring. Three-person shifts changed routinely and teams of two strong men were available to lift and turn patients like myself who could not move on their own. One of these strong men said he knew I must be a little better on the third day because I wasn’t clawing at him like a tiger when he bent to help me.
One night I became involved in a real-life drama when the oxygen monitor for the patient in the next bed, a quadriplegic with severe respiratory problems, began beeping repeatedly.
I became alarmed and called out “Emergency!”
A nurse quickly ran in and got her breathing again. An hour later, I heard the beeping and again called for help. This time the nurse could not re-establish a pulse and “coded” her. Doctors and nurses came running. They shoved my bed and tray table to the wall and closed my curtain, but it was night-time, and I could see their reflections in the window and their legs below the curtain, leading me to guess that eight to 10 medics were present. They worked for 45 minutes, finally got her breathing, and sent her to the intensive care unit.
The next day, a nurse told me the patient was fine, but another one said she wasn’t doing well.
A few days later, I was transferred to a skilled nursing facility. Although I assumed the nursing facility would be more patient-friendly than the hospital, that was not the case. There was a cascade of rules and regulations about the smallest things and total lack of sensibility in applying the rules. There appeared to be an inability to provide the proper food order (not once in eight days was it totally correct), and food quality, surprisingly, was inferior to that of the hospital.
My worst experience began at 5:30 one morning, when a nurse appeared to give me a pain pill. I asked for it to be delayed to 6:30 a.m. and the nurse said she would mark that on my chart. A new shift came on, and at 7:10, I requested the pill through a nursing assistant.
A nurse finally came in after an hour and a half and said she could not give me the pill until the next dose was due at 2 p.m., because I had “refused “ the earlier dose. She claimed that if she gave it to me now, she would lose her license. I argued for 10 minutes.
Finally she left and returned at 9 a.m. with the pain pill, saying they would make “an exception” this time. When I discussed this with a hospital administrator later, it was clear that the nurse behaved in error and without regard to the patient’s needs.
Yes, there were caring staff members at the nursing facility, especially among the young nursing assistants, but I am afraid the good did not balance out the bad, at least for me, and I begged to go home as soon as possible.
I’m told it takes about six weeks for fractured bones to heal. Meanwhile, I think we will eat take-out salads.