Seeing the service from a different perspective forced me to assess my priorities and influenced how I treat my own patients
In March 2012, my husband had a stroke. He was 34. I recognised the signs within seconds, called 999 and had a hospital bag ready by the time the ambulance arrived four minutes later. Sam’s speech was slurred and he had lost 50% of his vision. In A&E, I held the sick bowl as he vomited again and again. As he was rushed off for a scan, I was in complete shock. In true English fashion I went to get a cup of tea. But the restaurant was closed and the vending machine broken; it was then that I cried.
Three hours and 45 minutes after admission, the doctors arrived with their clipboards at Sam’s bed. There was a tense discussion and Sam was wheeled away to a general ward. This was essentially an inadequately staffed “holding” ward, and it was not in his best interests to be there.
Three days later, Sam was still in hospital, did not have a named consultant, was still waiting for a CT scan, and was being woken every two hours for observations he didn’t need. The board above his bed still showed the name of its previous occupant, a 78-year-old man who was “nil by mouth” – which meant Sam had not been fed. A healthcare worker insisted on switching on a flickering light above his bed that gave him a headache so unbearable he resorted to wearing sunglasses. Then I overheard two doctors mocking him for “milking his migraine”.
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