Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A brief moment of levity in Accident and Emergency

The good people who read my work will recall that my wife is a dialysis patient and undergoes haemodialysis twice a week.

One of the drawbacks with taking haemo (as it is known) is that the patient is susceptible to fluid overload as the kidneys cannot handle excess fluids. This can be extremely dangerous as the fluids can build up in the patient’s lungs thereby effectively drowning them.

On Monday the 15th June as I was getting ready to leave for work my wife very wisely advised me that she felt the symptoms of fluid overload. I immediately offered to take her to Accident & Emergency at the Prince of Wales Hospital. She dressed and we were in a taxi within moments, arriving at A & E at 7:15. In an effort to be helpful (and save time) I explained to the doctor at the triage station that ‘'Rina was a dialysis patient, had a history of respiratory problems and was showing signed of fluid buildup in the lungs which was causing respiratory problems. This man had either just come on duty or was just going off and showed no interest in my effort to be helpful. Instead he read out a list of symptoms and asked if she had any of them. I suppose he was just doing his job.

Very quickly we were taken to an A & E cubicle and seen by another doctor who agreed that it was very likely to be fluid buildup. He arranged for an ECG and an X-ray which were carried out quickly. ‘'Rina was then wheeled into a waiting area. By this time it was around 7:40.

And we waited. And waited. At around 10 am I went to the nurse’s station to find out what was happening and was told that they were still waiting for the doctor to take a look at the X-rays. No problem, I told her (I do appreciate that they handle hundreds of patients daily), I just wanted to know what was happening. I returned to the waiting area and it was a few minutes later when a man was wheeled in on a gurney. It says a lot for the level of the boredom that we go through that we take an interest in the patients around us. This man was in his mid to late thirties and was still dressed in his street clothes. After a few minutes he sat up on the gurney and noticed the toilet just across the corridor. Gingerly, he eased himself off the gurney and hobbled into the toilet. It was at that time that the local constabulary in the form of three police officers arrived, two men and a WPC. They took one look at the vacant gurney and went into a panic. There was a lot of arm waving and jumping up and down on the spot. The WPC took out one of her mobile phones and tried to make a call. Mobile phone signals are notoriously bad in some areas of the hospital and eventually she went to the nurse’s station and used their land line. A few moments later hospital two men in crisp white shirts and badges identifying them as hospital security arrived. The five of them surrounded the vacant gurney and started shouting at each other oblivious of the sick patients around them. Apparently, whoever the patient was, someone should have been looking after him. As far as the police were concerned he had not been officially handed over to them and was therefore the responsibility of the hospital, while the hospital security men were claiming the exact opposite.

It was at this point in time that the object of their concern walked out of the toilet, eased his way through the assembled police officers and security men and climbed back onto the gurney. Suddenly there was silence until one of the security men made a time honoured Cantonese comment to the senior police officer about what he could do with his mother. The security officers stomped off back to wherever they lived and the policemen surrounded the gurney, no doubt to make sure that this fellow wasn’t going to get away from them again.

The entire episode only lasted about five minutes but it helped to pass the time.

(Stewart’s wife, Quirina, was diagnosed with renal failure in 2004 and is currently undergoing dialysis).

No comments: