Tag Archives: emergency room

Round and round

Sunday night, I ended up in the emergency ward with my mom again.

At least, this time when I heard her quavery voice on the phone, I said,”Call 911 right now. I’m on my way!”

She did, and I arrived at her condo right behind the ambulance.

Mom had almost fallen because she was so dizzy and hot. She felt generally crappy, but somehow made it to her bed, then was able to make those two phonecalls. She said her head felt full, and every time she moved, the dizziness overwhelmed her.

The paramedics were calm and reassuring, as paramedics are. They didn’t seem to be in full emergency mode, and as long as Mom didn’t move too much, she seemed okay. She looked fine, at least. They had her raise her arms, smile, and asked her a few questions. She could do all that, so they said it didn’t seem to be a stroke. They checked her heartbeat, and even though she has atrial fibrillation, it seemed fine. Her blood pressure was high, despite her pills, but the paramedics said that this was quite likely due to the stress of her current situation. She had taken all her meds properly that day (this all happened at 9 pm), she assured them. They assured her that they were taking her into the hospital. I followed in my car.

Mom got a bed in emergency within fifteen minutes – but in a back hallway of the ward, not in the regular beds that loop around the nurses’ station in the centre. Somehow, that reassured me. I reasoned that if things were dire, she would have been placed in full view of all the medical staff, and hooked up to all kinds of monitors.

She and I had a few conversations with nurses. Her blood drawn pretty quickly, she gave a urine sample, and she had an ECG. Later, she was taken away for an x-ray of her chest. She was exhausted (so was I, quite honestly), but a doctor didn’t come by to see her for almost five hours. I guess it took that long to have all that analyzing done and some sort of diagnosis made.

And what was that diagnosis finally? Well, I wasn’t very impressed with the doctor’s bedside manner, but the upshot was that they had done 15 tests on her and there was “no emergent situation”. We asked what that meant, and he explained that there was no heart attack, no stroke, no real reason for her to be admitted. He said that yes, there was “something”, but that “something” could better be dealt with by her physician, as it wasn’t a life-or-death situation.

“But what’s wrong with me? Why do I feel so dizzy?” Mom almost whined.

The doctor told us that his best guess, based on her symptoms, was vertigo.

I quickly googled it on my phone. Yep, sure sounded like Mom had vertigo. In fact, it sounded like Mom had vertigo last year when she threw up at the casino and PG and I had had to go and get her and take her into emergency. Mom then mused that she thought that she’d tripped and almost fallen a day or so previously, but now she thought that perhaps she’d been briefly dizzy, not clumsy.

And what medical treatment is there for vertigo? The doctor said it was actually fairly common, particularly in older folks, but that it wasn’t usually long-lasting or totally debilitating. He assured us that it would very likely pass on its own, in a day or so. If it became chronic or longer-lasting or more severe, there were meds, but he suggested that I just take Mom home and that she try to relax.

So that’s what we did.

I stayed with her that night – or what was left of it – because even though she was already feeling much, much better, she was a little nervous that it would happen again. The next night, DD stayed overnight with her. And then she pronounced herself “just fine!” and said she didn’t need any more babysitting. She’s continued to be “just fine!” ever since.images-1

But I do think I prefer the movie “Vertigo” to the version Mom experienced – and so does she, I’m sure!

Different strokes …

I had to take my mom into emergency on Saturday afternoon. Her left hand, as she put it, “wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do”. It wasn’t numb or anything like that, but she couldn’t, for example, push up her glasses or scratch her nose with that hand. The message from her brain didn’t seem to be getting through to her hand.

Well, in my family, we know what THAT means. It means a stroke … except that no other parts of her body were affected, nor was her speech. It was a bit like her experience in March 2012 when just her left leg was weakened. Despite what the emergency doctor and Mom’s own physician told us at the time, a neurologist with whom Mom later consulted told us that he wasn’t entirely sure that what she’d had back then was an actual stroke, as only one of her legs was affected rather than one entire side of her body as is what usually happens with a stroke, and also because there were no permanent physical effects, really. True, her brain showed small signs of damage in one small spot, but who knows what her brain looked like prior to this incident?

Transient-Ischemic-AttackAnyway, this time there was a quick and definite diagnosis: it was a TIA – a transient ischemic attack, a.k.a. a mini-stroke. The good things (if there even CAN be any good things about it) is that physical effects are likely to be quite short-lived, usually lasting less than 24 hours and often only a few minutes, and that there is no permanent damage to the brain. The bad things are that a TIA is considered to be a serious warning that a major stroke could occur within a year, and that you have about a one in three chance of that actually happening.

Mom had a CT scan that confirmed that there was no damage to her brain, and even as she lay in her emergency ward bed, we could see that the coordination was coming back to her hand. She was at the hospital for only three hours or so, and after all the tests, she was told that everything seemed okay and none of her meds needed to be adjusted, so we could take her home. Apparently this is what they do for TIAs. The emergency doctor did mention that her left carotid artery showed a bit of blockage, and I explained that she’d had an ultrasound of that in September, and that we were told that nothing had really changed there since the ultrasound the year before. I then said that some type of scan that involved dye had been suggested by Mom’s physician a while ago, and questioned whether or not that would be a good idea at this time.

Oh yes, the doctor said, that would be an excellent idea to get an even better view of what’s going on with that artery. He would order that up right away, but in the meantime, Mom should go home. The hospital would call her next week some time to arrange for that procedure, he said.

To our great astonishment, the hospital called the very next day, Sunday, and they wanted Mom in that afternoon! Unfortunately, she was at the casino almost all day, gambling away my inheritance with one of her sisters. Mom called the hospital back on Monday morning, which was Remembrance Day, a stat holiday, and was given an appointment at 1 pm that afternoon. How’s THAT for socialized medicine?!

So back we went to the hospital yesterday afternoon. Mom had to drink a whole whack of water, then she was injected with this dye, then she had another CT scan. Took all of maybe 10 minutes, and there was pretty much no discomfort – other than Mom said she had to pee like a racehorse partway through!

Now comes the stupid part.

The procedure at this point is that the patient waits for the results of the scan there at the hospital. I don’t know why, but unlike most medical tests, you do not go home and receive a phone call a few days later to either tell you the scan results or to come in to get them or whatever. No, you are expected to wait.

And why do you wait? Because a radiologist must interpret the scan. And then a specialist must be located to further interpret the scan and decide what else needs to be done about it. And then an emergency room doctor must interpret the scan and also decide what else needs to be done about it. And then that emergency doctor must tell YOU all this.

Note that an emergency doctor is involved here. This, of course, means that if the emergency ward is busy, the emergency doctor will be tending to those people, not so much to the people who are simply hanging around waiting for their test results. And this being a stat holiday when people couldn’t go to their regular doctors or to some walk-in clinics (although some of those are still open on stats), the emergency room was packed. Like, nowhere to sit packed.

imagesSo Mom and I waited for those fricking test results for a very long time – for FOUR HOURS! They moved us to three different waiting areas, so it LOOKED like we were moving along, but our total wait time was FOUR HOURS!

And when the doctor came to tell her the results, she didn’t even take us into one of the little rooms available for privacy. Oh no, she simply stood in front of us for three whole minutes, right there in the third waiting area, with other people around us.

Not that there was anything earth-shattering or super-private or anything like that, but still! What she said was that there’s a two-centimetre piece of Mom’s left carotid artery in which the plaque build-up is starting to erode, and it seems a bit of that plaque was what briefly got stuck in Mom’s brain and caused the non-communication with her hand. The vascular specialist who was consulted wants Mom to add a daily baby aspirin to her medication regime, since that will help further thin her blood in order to minimize those clots getting stuck somewhere in her veins and causing another (bigger) stroke. He also wants to see her in a week to discuss what else could be done, and his receptionist will call Mom this week to arrange that.

Honestly, it was just three minutes in the middle of a waiting area. Not exactly a great return on a four-hour wait, in my opinion.

But we did get some answers and information, and we know what our next step is.

And my mom is still pretty healthy.

Tough old bird

I spent Sunday in the emergency ward with my mother. Oh, not to worry, she turned out to be absolutely fine. I was the one who insisted on taking her there, for my own peace of mind. She just wanted to go home. But I had the car keys.

My mom had gone to the casino early on Sunday morning. She hadn’t been for a while, and she wanted to play the slots for a couple of hours, then get home in time to watch the US Open golf tournament.

She said she put 20$ in a machine and was happily gambling away, when quite suddenly, she felt clammy and hot and sweaty all at once. Equally suddenly, she vomited. She felt rather disoriented and put her head down on the machine, at which point security came over to her and took her to First Aid. They checked her over, particularly her heart (she has atrial fibrillation, so her heartbeat can be quite erratic, despite the meds she’s on), and gave her oxygen. Things settled down, but when they removed the oxygen, she felt weird again. She also complained that there was pressure behind her left ear.

In the meantime, she asked the casino staff to call me so I could take her home, as she didn’t trust herself to drive. PG and I were there within 45 minutes. As one First Aid person took Mom out to the car, another one told me what her symptoms were. He said the pressure behind her ear was what worried him, and encouraged me to take her to her doctor.

On Sunday morning. Yeah, right.

I asked Mom how she felt right at that moment, sitting in her car. She was pale, but she said she was okay. She said she was tired and wanted to go home and lie down. I said I thought I was going to take her to emergency, that I just needed to know that all was well. She took one look at my face and nodded.

To make a long story short, at the hospital, they checked her heart (it was fine), she had bloodwork done (fine), they gave her head a CT scan (fine again), and they analyzed her urine (still fine). Then her left ear popped and there was no more pressure in her head. Apparently, there was no real reason for her to have thrown up and felt so crappy – except perhaps she’d caught some minor bug, the doctor figured. And there may be something to that theory, because in the seven hours we were in the emergency ward, I overheard a LOT of seniors in beds around us who complained of feeling hot and sweaty and clammy and lightheaded and who had thrown up.

They let us take Mom home shortly before 5 pm – and we all immediately had a shot of rye once she was settled in her favourite chair in her own living room! We ordered dinner in, had another drink, then left her about 8 pm so she could get some sleep.

And how is my mother now feeling? Well, she’s as feisty as ever and still right pissed. You see, she didn’t have time to win any money at the casino on Sunday, and she also missed the entire golf tournament on TV!

IHwHeWQTqmK9-6u9sEgjG14HC3njz4TQGWdhCECl7jN_xFnBfdl4CYNrZgqP2OXXH627aA=s102One tough old bird, indeed!