FRANKLY SPEAKING: Nightmare on QEH street
A few nights ago around 9:30 p.m., I was driving my car along Lodge Road, Christ Church, when a car suddenly drove across my path from Gall Hill. We collided. Thankfully, I was not driving at excessive speed or the stiffness about my body would now be rigor mortis.
That collision set off a series of associated events, the worst of which was not the accident itself, but the treatment I suffered at the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). I will get back to that later.
Immediately after the accident, people who were nearby came to my assistance. They were truly great. One came, ascertained my condition and offered to call the ambulance and police. Another introduced himself, said he was a first aider and asked me a few questions to verify I was not in any imminent danger. Several others came to check on my welfare and kept my company until the ambulance and police came. I thank all of them.
I was lucky; the ambulance came quickly but I was even more fortunate because the crew was extremely professional and reassuring. I was in such excruciating pain but I was in caring hands and that seemed to help. Unfortunately, the last thing on my mind was introductions. I was more concerned about how my mother would take the news, and my wife losing a really good husband: we are not that plentiful you know.
The pain was so intense; it felt like someone had parked a truck on my ribs. I would have sworn that I had struck my chest on the steering wheel. It was only after one of the paramedics held up my shirt that we discovered the seatbelt had left a mark emblazoned across my chest like a presidential sash. I never knew that a seatbelt could be so brutal in carrying out its duty, but I shudder to think of the alternative. Hereafter, I am not driving two feet without my seatbelt being securely fastened.
However, I go back to the nightmarish part of my ordeal. After the accident, I was in too much pain to get out of the car on my own. The paramedics assisted me and I was transported to the QEH. On arrival, the paramedics helped me into a wheelchair, took me into the A&E and handed me over to my tormentors.
After sitting a while without anyone paying the slightest attention to me, a nurse instructed an orderly to take me outside to the public waiting area. I objected, pointing out that I was unable to get out of the wheelchair on my own. She then said he would help me but I suppose the look on my face caused her to relent. And after a change of heart (I use heart loosely), she said to leave me there that she would assess me.
A short time later, I was wheeled into an examination room and told to get on the bed. I honestly tried but each time the pain surged and eventually the nurse assisted me. By this time I was begging for a painkiller. She explained that she could not give it to me because she needed to do an ECG. After that procedure, she told me to get off the bed so she could administer a Voltaren injection. To cut a long story short, she helped me off and I got the injection.
My next destination was the X-ray room. When my name was called, there was no one there to take me so my wife doubled as orderly. After the X-ray was finished, I was again helped into a wheelchair and parked under an air-conditioning unit that was going full blast for close to an hour. By this time the Voltaren injection had started to work. I was then wheeled out into the public waiting area, placed on a chair and abandoned there for eight hours.
During that period, the effect of the Voltaren started to fade. Again the pain spiked to about nine on the Richter scale. None of the hospital personnel would even look at me. Mind you, I am not claiming any special mistreatment; there were several persons out there being ignored.
About six in the morning, I saw a patient advocate and pleaded with her to get me some help. She promised and went away. I saw her 55 minutes later trying to evade my line of sight.
The seven o’clock shift came on duty, and a doctor came out and started to call names, presumably to see who had survived the night. I asked him if he could give me the X-ray so that I could go to FMH.
Shortly thereafter, I was called inside and placed on a bed. Eventually, a young female doctor came to my assistance. Hers was the first friendly face of any hospital staff member I had seen since being dropped off by the ambulance. She tried her best to cheer me up but I was in too much pain to be. The name on the prescription that she gave me was Ruth Haynes. It is clear she has not been infected by the cruelty of her colleagues.
It seems as though the people at the A&E have seen too much suffering, and have immunized themselves from showing empathy for the people who pass through their hands. I would suggest that management source some sensitivity training for them.
Even the police officer who came to the scene showed more compassion. He came to the hospital and after I came home, called to see how I was doing. Thank you, Constable Brooks, I will not soon forget you – you are a credit to the police force.
• Caswell Franklyn is a trade unionist and social commentator.