McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 31, 2011

Letter to Editor: A tough wait in an emergency room

By Jonna Zachary

McALESTER — Editor:

On Thursday night, July 14th, 2011, I went to a local emergency room with excruciating stomach pains. Their staff “triaged” me fairly quickly and when questioned about my pain on a scale from one to 10, I stated that my pain was definitely a 10. I sat out in the waiting area in my nightgown in a wheelchair moaning and crying with my head hung in one of the trash cans vomiting repeatedly.

 I understand that there are people who use the emergency room as a routine doctor but I’m not one of them. I have had two miscarriages, birthed two children (one which weighed over nine pounds and I’m not quite 4’11” tall) and had a hysterectomy, just to name a few things off of the top of my head that I’ve endured. What I’m getting at is that I can usually tolerate pain.

I admit I have limited medical knowledge so I “Googled” the word triage. According to the Internet, triage refers to a process used in hospital emergency rooms, battlefields or disaster sites for sorting people into groups based on their need for or likely to benefit from immediate medical treatment. I also realize that in an emergency room setting that it’s not uncommon to wait for long periods of time. It’s the order of being called for treatment that bothers me. I overheard one woman that was called back to a treatment room before me laughing and joking with whom she kept referring to as “Son” and about five to six other young people with them about being at a bar and not even knowing how she had received her injury. Another man who got called before me for treatment laughed and also joked with the person that called him back that he sure hoped they had enough “super glue” to treat his injury.

Since I was still in a terrible amount of pain and continued to vomit in the trash can out in the lobby, my husband asked at the desk about how much longer it would be before I was seen. Here’s another thing I realize: After routinely coming in contact with hundreds of people/patients, these hospital clerks learn to be thick-skinned and de-sensitize themselves towards patients and their loved ones. This inconsiderate clerk had surely mastered these skills and demonstrated them whenever she informed my husband nonchalantly that it would be another 30-45 minutes in addition to over the hour that we had already waited before we even got back to someone other than the initial triage nurse to examine me.

It was then that we decided to go somewhere else. He drove me to Tulsa’s St. John Medical Center. Within 45 minutes of arriving at their emergency room, they already had an IV in me. Whenever the doctor came and examined me, after diagnosing my pain as gallbladder related and confirming it with ultrasound, they determined that I had five “over-marble-sized” gallstones lodged in my bile duct which had caused my gallbladder to become “angry” and inflamed and constantly spasm, which triggered all my pain, nausea and vomiting. Shortly thereafter, I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder.

Long story short, I just wanted to say thanks for making us feel “forced” to go to another hospital for treatment. Not that anyone at the local hospital cares, but neither I nor any member of my family will darken the doors for treatment there again. That in itself is a shame because I was previously employed there for almost seven years and know there are many wonderful staff members there as well. Things certainly worked out for the best though, albeit a sad realization. It made us realize that we would rather die enroute to another medical facility over 100 miles away versus driving less than 20 miles to the nearest medical facility from where we live.