Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The sound of silence (Musings on Alberta Health emergency depts)

Updated: 15 Apr. 2016
Brief blog on something I experienced 6 April 2016. I tripped and fell in the public parkade of the apartment complex I've lived in for ~25 yrs and was taken by EMS to Edmonton's UAH ~ 2 blocks away. Why and how I fell isn't important. For the record, some suggest I could possibly sue (who knows?) but am not interested. I like living here and the stress involved just ain't worth it. 

My aim in writing the blog is to document what it's like to have a concussion and what folks experience in emergency apartments

As a sports fan I've read about the awful toll on football players and others by concussions but as a senior citizen I never expected to experience one myself. 

In brief, I tripped over a raised piece of metal (what doesn't matter) in the public parkade that runs between the multiple buildings in my apartment complex. I've fallen before on icy sidewalks but this fall was different. I was astounded to feel my face smack violently against a concrete floor. I'll never forget the shock.

Now I know what it's like to have a concussion. After I fell and my head hit the cement, full-force, I heard and saw maintenance guys rush over and say "Let's put a pylon over this" (the raised piece of metal). They tried to lift me to my feet immediately, but I muttered no-no-no because I didn't know what parts of my old bod were still working.

But then the effects of the brain rattling about in skull must have taken hold because I recall nothing from that point until I 'awoke' in the apartment complex office, pretty groggy, and my spouse was there. I had no idea where I was or how I'd gotten there or what day it was, etc. I still recall nothing of how I got to the office after I fell. Suspect that's gone forever.

But I've since learned that two office staff took me to the office (not EMS or maintenance staff). Once there they apparently asked me if they should call my spouse and I looked at them blankly at which point they likely thought, "Oh! Oh! No one's home!" and called EMS. 

Amazing how with a concussion you can seem to be awake but not take in any stimuli at all via eyes and ears.

Going to the emergency department (ED) at UAH was the usual nightmare. I know because I've accompanied seniors there many times. I was in the ED from about 1 pm to 6:45 pm. Had multiple x-rays of rib cage and right elbow, plus a CT scan of head. No broken bones and noggin is okay. 

Fall caused pain and suffering, albeit limited, but still ongoing. Screaming muscles improved in a few days, have bruises in places I cannot show. Suspect rib cage pain will take months to alleviate. It seems worse now than earlier. Rib cage especially hurts when lying down, coughing, laughing, blowing nose. Not a big deal but definitely aggravating and stressful. 

But will never forget the shock of my face smashing violently against concrete.

Here's the main point of this blog. Take what you will from this narrative. Its point is to motivate improvement in Alberta's health care system.

At UAH I was on a gurney situated in a separate space between the ED proper and ambulance bay. EMS staff were noisy - very LOUD - as they met and happily chatted with colleagues they had not seen for awhile. So boisterous that I eventually had to ask them to be quiet as they were giving me a headache. EMS guy who brought me there did explain to colleagues that I had a concussion and they should be quiet. 

But eventually more and more EMS staff met in that space and their chatter was incredibly loud and distracting and sometimes bordered on inappropriate.

On past visits to the UAH ED with seniors I'd experienced similar narratives so wasn't surprised. It seems some AHS EMS staff are unhappy campers. They especially gripe about the shifts they get or, more importantly, don't get, and how they want to be transferred to another location.

And there seems to be a particular guy (dispatcher?) that some feel doesn't like them and hence bugs then relentlessly. He's apparently quite short (4 ft something and married to xxxx) and has never really worked at any real EMS job. 

Do EMS staff think patients within hearing distance are deaf? Or have they never been educated about professionalism?

Unsure if this is correctable but I heard VERY intimate medical and personal details of folks in ED 'cubicles' on both sides of mine. I did not know the patients but it's conceivable I may have. 

Also heard a patient argue repeatedly with successive nurses and physicians demanding that no matter what their tests showed, and even if her symptoms did not fit, she was certain she had a blood clot in her thigh and they must do an ultrasound. 

That's it for now.

This Simon and Garfunkel ditty seems appropriate.

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