Two Nights at the Emergency Room OR WTF is Going On With our Hospital

It’s winter in Hobart and that means the usual round of coughs and sniffles. Said germs have done a number on our family this year. When hubby got sick first I knew we were all in for it because he NEVER GETS SICK. Anyway he got it first, then Master 5 got it, then my mum who was staying with us, then me and then, dammit, the ten month old baby. I’m constantly grateful that our local hospital is a less than 10 minute drive away. It’s just nice to know, especially with infants, that you can get them to where they need to go. And you expect that when you get there, that they are going to be able and willing to give you the help you need. Australia, for the time being, can say that it has a public health system (as stretched and inadeqate as it can be, on the whole it lurches along). Our family wished to use this system and we had a very unusual experience.

Monday we took baby Henry to the GP, he’d been snotty, coughing and had fevers most of the weekend and he just wasn’t improving, if anything he was getting worse. We’d managed it ourselves but a proper diagnosis was necessary. The GP diagnosed him as having Bronchiolitis, that made sense, our older boy had had a similar illness in his first year. She also gave us a referral to the Emergency Room, she wished for a Dr at the hospital to check him out because she was concerned his laboured breathing may have fatigued him and he might need oxygen.

When we got to the hospital I knew right away that we were going to be in for a long wait. The ER was about 9/10ths full and a constant stream of people were arriving. There was a cross section of everything/everyone; an eight year old who had smacked his head on the dining table while chasing his brother. The old man in builders dayglo who, when he wasn’t calling everyone Effing C’*nts, was loudly denying that he was, in fact, dead drunk. The bogan family of ten who I suspect lived in a van who were all there because the baby was ill. The very old semi-conscious man in his wheelchair with  nobody to help him. The mother with a broken arm whose son-in-law had brought her in and was obviously resenting that fact. I’ll save you the rest for another blog.

I grew up in an age of waiting in the car for undetermined periods of time with ZERO forms of entertainment (mum didn’t even leave me the keys so I could listen to the radio, that could have had something to do with me attempting to drive at eight years old – another story). As a result I have become a master of  People Watching and am thoroughly entertained by it. After about three hours of waiting  Henry and I were starting to settle in, he was making goo goo eyes at all the females he could spot and was generally okay, his breathing and temp were up and down but I knew we’d see someone soon…..

Next thing I know ‘Semi-Conscious Ancient Man in Wheelchair’ was being wheeled back out into emergency, the nurses suddenly seemed more frantic and I heard a few orderlies snapping at each other. I started to sense that something was amiss – why was a patient being brought BACK INTO the waiting room, he’d gone in about an hour prior and now he was back, it is not supposed to go that way.

Suddenly a very loud booming voice called out “EXCUSE ME EMERGENCY ROOM” nobody payed her any attention so she yelled it out again “ATTENTION PLEASE EMERGENCY ROOM” the place fell silent. We all looked around to see a very domineering, slightly larger woman who was flustered. She continued yelling “I AM SORRY TO TELL YOU THAT THE HOSPITAL IS FULL. WE HAVE NO BEDS. I HAVE CONTACTED THE CEO OF THE HOSPITAL BUT THEY ARE UNABLE TO HELP AT THIS TIME. THE WAIT WILL BE EXTRAORDINARILY LONG SO UNLESS YOU ARE BASICALLY DYING DESPERATE FOR TREATMENT PLEASE LEAVE“.

Well I wasn’t expecting that.  But hell yeah, if I have a chance to get outta here, I’ll take it. Usually once you get on the Emergency Room train you cannot leave until you have been seen, no matter how long it takes. Henry’s temp had leveled, it was high but wasn’t jumping all over the place. His cough seemed okay. He’d stopped whinging. I joined the queue to ask Triage if we could go. We live close by so she was happy for us to leave so long as somebody was watching him constantly to make sure he was breathing (!!!). Sure, we said, no problem. And away we went.

We did as they asked and monitored him through the night. He seemed okay but at around 6.30 pm Tuesday his breathing became more difficult, his temperature sky-rocketed and he broke out in huge red blotches all over his body. FUCKWE HAVE TO GO BACK. And back we went. I’m not sure if we walked into the Twilight zone but the ER was bare except for one other family and us. We saw a pediatrician about 2 1/2 hours later. She thought that Henry had contracted a virus that had infected his sinus which was dripping a bunch of crap into his lungs. Lovely. The rash was heat related so no worries there. All we could do was nurse him through it until he got better.

That was a few weeks ago and (fingers crossed) we are all mostly better now. Henry still has snot that looks nuclear but his spark is back! I am still quite puzzled by the whole experience really and am not quite sure what to make of it. I’m pretty sure though that when a (presumably) Head Nurse is begging you to leave the hospital then something is amiss. More on this soon.