I wish that I had a happier medical story to share after our last clinic visit but alas we had another encounter with our less than perfect medical care system. I know that there are many good stories to share and I promise that I will when they happen. This entry, however, is about our less than satisfying visit to the ER last night.
Yesterday morning (and for the last week) Kate complained that she wasn't feeling well. She asked to stay home from school and her Dad let her. About 10 am Kate really seemed fine so I encouraged her to go to school (I know, I know, bad Mommy - but you weren't there. Kate didn't seem ill at all.) I told her teacher to call me if she was complaining or not feeling well but she said that Kate did just fine all afternoon. After I picked Kate up she began telling me about how her back was hurting. Shortly thereafter she was fussing about both of her legs too. I thought that maybe she needed to rest and laid her on the couch to watch a show. Within an hour she came upstairs, crying pitifully, laid on my bed and told me she was getting worse. She could only take a step or two before she'd fall down because everything hurt so much. I had no idea what the problem could be. Although she felt warm, she didn't have a fever. Kate was not complaining of any urinary symptoms and she hadn't fallen down. I tried some Motrin but it didn't help at all. At one point when was crying pitifully into her pillow, she finally asked me to take her to the hospital. That was enough to scare me, so I called the on-call doctor (who has never met us) for some help. I had wanted him to give me some thoughts as to what the problem could be (ie-is this a normal side effect of the new chemo or bone pain. Should I give her some Tylenol with codeine and see if it helps or is there a potentially serious problem that I'm unaware of) but when he heard Kate crying in the backround he recommended that we come in.
Once to the ER, at 6:30pm, we were put into a room very quickly. They bring their cancer patients back immediately - don't necessarily do anything forever...but we were in a room at least. Our first nurse tried twice to access Kate's port and failed. Our second nurse tried again but wasn't getting any blood flow. They tried heparin and finally called down the nurses from the cancer floor. The cancer center nurses took that access out and poked her again. Mind you, nurse #2 had promised Kate that if she could cooperate she wouldn't be poked in the arm. What is that old saying, "Don't make promises that you can't keep." So, Kate cooperated through the tears and still after a 3rd poke they couldn't get any blood flow. Kate ended up having to get a blood draw from her hand anyway! That entire process took over 5 hours. I work in an ER and I can say without a doubt, that is ridiculous!
Kate had had it. By this point she was wimpering again, asking me to take her home and put her in her own bed. Meanwhile, we've been in the ER for over 5 hours. We have seen a resident once who did a quick exam and said she'd be back. No mention as to possible causes of this pain or what tests they'd be running. After 5 1/2 hours a radiology tech comes in to take us to x-ray. What were they looking for, I have no idea because it hadn't been discussed. Kate's pain had lessened on arrival but began returning a few hours later so they gave her Lortab. That seemed to do the trick. About 6 hours into the visit the resident pops her head in the room and asks if we'll be ok taking Kate home. I about lost it. It was after midnight, Kate had been poked ad nauseum, x-rayed and nobody had given us any results or thoughts as to what the problem was, yet we were being asked if we were ready to go. Nurse #3 ,who'd just begun her shift, was in the room during the resident's pop-in. She briefly asked me to tell her what had happened since arrival. I told her how I felt and she got an attending to finally tell us what was going on. In the end, they don't know why Kate was hurting so much so we are going to talk to her regular doctor tomorrow. We got home by 1 am and put a wiped Kate to bed.
This is why cancer patients don't go to the ER and just endure the long night until the clinic opens in the morning. Perhaps I should have just given her the narcotic at home!