Friday, 23 August 2013

Spectacular trip and I'm off to hospital

Regular interaction with the health system is a feature of my working life, but usually I'm a simulated patient, rather than a real one.  Today I experienced the emergency department of one of Melbourne's main hospitals from the perspective of a real patient.

Following my usual routine, I had enjoyed the walk from Flinders Street station to the office South Melbourne.  There's something refreshing about a brisk walk in the cold air.  I arrived at the office just after 9am and entered the foyer.  I took one step, felt my left ankle slip, I corrected and over-balanced the other way, landing on my right knee as I went for a spectacular slide on the ground.  I lay on my face for a moment (elegant!), gathered myself together and sat up.  Several people walked past and then a woman stopped to help me up and ask if I was okay.  It was then a few steps into the office.  I sat in reception, burst into tears and announced that I had just had a fall.  

An icepack was brought immediately and a team of people sprang into action.  I had been able to walk, but bending the knee was causing a nasty twinge at the back/side.  I peeled back my leggings and discovered a nasty bruise and some swelling.  We quickly decided that I should head to an emergency department for xrays and assessment.

I arrived with a work colleague at 10:10am and could immediately see that it was busy.  My colleague joined the queue for me while I sat and waited for the three people ahead of her to be seen by the triage nurse.  She was lovely but had an unusual definition of pace and urgency.  I was thankful that I had someone with me and that I wasn't really, really sick or injured.  Several people in the queue looked terrible and there was no one to go to for help except the slow moving triage nurse.  

After about 30 minutes I made the front of the queue.  I gave my name, date of birth, address and gave a description of what had happened and a rating for the pain.  I was directed to take a seat and wait to be called by the administration clerk.  After a further fifteen minutes, I was seated in front of the administration clerk and asked exactly the same questions again as well as details of my Medicare card and employer.  These two people were sitting a metre from each other and using computers, so it seems incredible that my information hadn't been passed on.  Several times when I was trying to respond to questions, the administration clerk turned to talk to other people or answer the phone.  

Soon a very friendly physiotherapist came to see me.  She did a quick examination and then took me for an xray which was done quickly and I was back on a bed.  It was good news: nothing broken or torn, but some local bruising, likely deep bone bruising and soreness.  I discovered that one part of my knee is very sore to touch normally.  I nearly jumped out of my skin when she pressed somewhere that I hadn't realised was sore.  When she checked the other knee in the same spot I had the same reaction.  Apparently I just have sensitive knees.

Two hours and ten minutes later I was in a taxi on my way home, wearing a sexy compression bandage with a list of instructions for regular application of an ice pack.  

When I came back to the waiting area, there were more people and people who had been there before me were still waiting.  None of them looked happy or comfortable.  All the seats are upright and there wasn't even any way that I could sit with my leg elevated while I was waiting.  

I put my brother down as next of kin and called him to tell him what was going on.  He's a veterinarian and immediately performed a lameness exam over the phone and promptly ordered a full body cast while laughing maniacally.  I started to reconsider my decision to have him as next of kin.  After I had been seen and was waiting for the paperwork to take with me I called him again.  He obviously still thought the whole thing was hilarious and asked me what  he should say if he got a call that said I was unconscious and they needed to know whether or not to amputate.  My response was "wake me up and ask me!"

My final instructions to him were that he wasn't to plug me in or unplug me.  Nothing like a sympathetic little brother to lighten the mood.

A weekend of lying in bed reading or lying on the couch watching TV with hourly trips to the freezer to retrieve the icepack stretches before me.  And I don't have to feel guilty!  I'm pleased that I haven't sustained a serious injury  and can't imagine how much pain I'd be in if I had!

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