Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to share a recent ER experience I had.  I am intentionally leaving out as many identifying details as possible, as my purpose of this letter is not to get anyone in trouble or to receive any form of service recovery.  It is simply to make you aware of how one experience can change a person's perception for forever.

I recently presented to the emergency room with a threatened miscarriage.  My heart was broken, so of course, I was crying.  I went through triage where my vital signs were taken.  I was immediately taken back to a bed, where a gentleman who was a part of the support staff asked me, "What brings you to the ER tonight?"  Through tears, I had to tell this man what I was there for as we walked through the crowded hallway.  I knew his intentions were good, but it just re-opened an already very raw wound.

Once I was put in my bed, a nurse came in to draw blood.  A physician was speaking with me at the time (someone I know personally, this was not the assigned physician to my case) so she gave us privacy and said she would be "right back".  "Right back" turned into several hours.

When the nurse returned, it was someone else, as I assume it was shift change.  She came through the curtain and happily exclaimed, "congratulations!"  Again, good intentions, but not appropriate for a woman in the midst of a miscarriage.  My response was a hesitant, "thank you, I hope," which lead to her asking if this was my first baby.  I said no, it was my third, and that I had an 8 year old and 3 year old at home.  She was visibly surprised by the ages of my other children at home.  When the transportation worker came to get me for my ultrasound, she said, "you should be pleased to know that the medical staff are talking about how you are too young to be here."  It's becoming repetitious, but again, I do not believe it was meant to be insulting, but hearing that and also seeing the surprised look on the nurses face, I knew what was actually being talked about was likely more related to me appearing young, not having my husband at my bedside because he was home with our other two children, and being on my third pregnancy.  Had anyone looked at my chart, they would have seen I am a married woman and of a "socially acceptable" age to be on my third pregnancy.  This was the ONLY discussion that night as far as my previous OB history is concerned.  No one ever asked again about how many times I have been pregnant, if I have miscarried before, or if I had any risk factors for miscarrying.  Simply that I was "too young" to be here.

Next came the pelvic exam.  I don't think there is such a thing as a pleasant pelvic exam, but I do know there is such a thing as compassion and warmth when giving one.  The physician, who explained to me that she was very busy that evening, did not walk me through any of it.  In fact, she gave zero warning when inserting the speculum, which naturally caused me to tense up.  The only verbal acknowledgement she gave me was, "you need to relax."  The manual exam was equally as painful, as there was no warning as far as what she was about to do.

Once all of the testing was done, the physician came into my room with a smile on her face, which  gave me a glimmer of hope that things might be okay.  Instead she stated, "your pregnancy hormone levels are declining and you are miscarrying.  I'm sorry."  That was it.  No instructions as far as what to expect, nothing.  The nurse did come give me a print-out on miscarrying, but that was all.

I feel compelled to write this letter, because what most of the staff did not know is that I am a nurse.  Not only am I a nurse, I work in a gynecology clinic, so a lot of this is not foreign to me.  No, I did not share this information that evening, because I was not there as a nurse.  I was there as a patient.  A patient going through an extremely traumatic event.

The only thing I want this letter to accomplish is to stress the importance of viewing patients as individuals.  You can be the best doctor in the country as far as your knowledge goes, but if you lack compassion, nothing else matters.  I suffered a huge, huge loss that night.  It is something I will never forget and I will always remember that I have two children on Earth, and one in Heaven.  I do not expect a hospital staff to feel the same emotions I do because that would be completely unrealistic.  I just want them to realize that the way they are towards a patient going through something difficult is also never forgotten.  If I could erase that ER experience from my memory, I would.  Unfortunately, because it is intertwined with my loss of a baby, it will be with me forever as well.

I do not feel anyones actions that night were intentionally cold or disrespectful.  I can assure you with my whole heart that I don't feel that way.  Being in the medical field, I know that there are budgets to work with as well as staff shortages, so people are doing what they can with what they have, and it's hard and exhausting.  I do believe, though, that my experience could have been a completely different experience had people practiced some common sense.  Read my chart and see what I am there for before you congratulate me on a pregnancy that is ending right before my eyes.  If you don't want to make the effort to read my chart, then read the tears on my face before you ask  me why I am there.  Understand that while no woman wants a pelvic exam, I am receiving one because I need to know for sure if my baby is gone or if my baby is still there.  I'm going to be tense.  That is an understatement of how I am going to be.  Use gently words and walk me through it.  I can guarantee it will make your job easier, if anything.  And please.  When you come in to tell me I am losing my third baby, at the very least, don't say it with a smile.  Sure, you may be otherwise having a wonderful night at work, but for me, it is going down as one of the worst days of my life.  Please respect that.

I have no idea what will happen with this letter.  I pray it doesn't get tossed aside.  Again, my intentions are NOT to get someone in trouble.  I want nothing in return except to know that maybe people might be more cognizant of their actions and how they affect others, because while my case might be forgotten about already from the hospitals standpoint, it will live with me for forever.

Name withheld

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