I’ve spent the last two days on the other side of the fence; in that I’ve been the poorly patient…. three times in 36 hours, in three different settings.
I finished my final placement on Friday and came home from London, ecstatic that I’d finished the year and so exhausted that I was in bed by 10pm. Less than an hour later I was woken with excruciating stomach pains and ran off to be sick…
“I’m just overtired” I thought, until I spent the whole night with my head down the toilet.
Saturday morning came and I was still in pain and unable to keep anything down. I rang the much derided 111 service and ran through a list of questions with the woman on the phone. In the end, she decided that due to the amount of pain I was in, she would send some non-emergency paramedics round.
The paramedics duly arrived in a few minutes and were lovely, they gave me some IV paracetamol and anti-emetic. They told me that my local hospital were a bit “funny” about accepting gastro patients, so if I wanted to go in, they’d have to take me to a hospital much further away.
All I wanted was some pain relief that I wouldn’t vomit back up so I could get some sleep, so I told them I’d rather just stay at home. They agreed that I didn’t really need to be admitted, but the strongest they could give me without admitting me was paracetamol. I figured if it stayed down it might help, and they went on their way.
Back in bed, I lasted an hour before the pain came back, worse than before and radiating through to my back, up my shoulders and down my left arm. Trying to persuade myself I wasn’t having a heart attack, I stuck it out for most of the day, still bringing up every sip of water that went down.
I really didn’t want to go into hospital - my biggest fear being that I’m meant to be getting on a plane Monday morning and I’m not missing that well-earnt holiday! Also, I didn’t want to be far from home and didn’t fancy the long journey back after I’d been discharged.
Eventually however I relented and called 111 back who sent some more paramedics out. This lot were much less sympathetic, wondering I’m sure why I was such an idiot and hadn’t just gone in the first time.
They got me to hospital, which is now the only trauma centre in a large catchment area and seemed ridiculously busy. I was hooked up to some more IV paracetamol, and left alone for just over 2 hours.
The doctor came back in the end and asked me how I was doing, but before I could even answer said “great, you’re better, let’s get you home”.
I pointed out that I didn’t actually feel better, and was in fact in so much pain I was crying (no wuss), but he said I probably just had a bug and that I would be fine.
Duly discharged and after a long and painful train journey home, I felt like I’d have been better off staying in bed the whole time.
Later that night, I was still vomiting and still in too much pain when I caught sight of my sorry self in the mirror- sunken eyes, pale skin, dry mouth… I could spot the signs of dehydration and knew I needed some help if I was going to get on that plane.
I took myself down to the local minor injuries unit and explained the situation. I told them I knew what was wrong with me, but that I needed some strong enough pain relief that I could get some sleep and get over it.
The nurses and doctors couldn’t have been lovelie - I was straight onto a saline drip, full blood count and x-ray, and pumped full of morphine so I could get some sleep.
Exactly 4 hours later the doctor came to wake me up, apologetic that my 4 hours was up, but wanting to know whether I felt I needed to be admitted or if I wanted to go home with some stronger painkillers. He explained that it probably was gastritis, which would clear up before flight time as long as I slept and looked after myself and wanted to know what he could do to help me do that.
Some high strength co-codamols and a bit of diazepam later and I’ve had the best night’s sleep and am feeling fully cured (if a bit weak!).
I can’t help but notice that the best care came from the people who took the time to listen to what I was saying, and find out what I felt I needed to get me better. I also have to wonder why, at the weekends, my only option for medical help is an A&E 20 miles from my home.
Gastritis is neither an accident nor an emergency, but there were no other options for me at the time.
I totally understand why there are restrictions on the medications that the public has access to, but sometimes maybe a bit of common sense wouldn’t go amiss? Had the first lot of paramedics been able to give me what we all knew I needed, then a whole lot of time and money would have been saved.
Anyway, I’m better now, and by the time you read this, I’ll be swimming in a clear blue sea with a cocktail in hand. Happy holidays!
Rachael Starkey is Student Nursing Times child branch student editor