We all have stories, the life events that have led us to where we are in the world today. In my first post, Why I’m Writing a Blog on Patient and Caregiver Experience in Healthcare, I wrote briefly about my passion behind improving healthcare. In the next couple of blog posts I’d like to dive deeper to tell my story–the specific life events that are the foundation for my fervor to improve healthcare.
To begin, I never in a million years thought I would ever work in healthcare. I majored in English Writing in college and would have been perfectly happy hopping from one odd writing job to the next, as long it provided me an opportunity to connect with people. But life had other plans. Three interactions with healthcare in the course of one year changed my life and are the foundation for everything that I do.
It all started in 2009 as a patient. I had recently quit my day job, ready to settle into being a stay-a-home mom with my three-year-old son and another baby on the way. About ten weeks into my pregnancy my stomach felt like someone had lit a match to it. I remember telling my husband I felt like fireworks were going off in my gut. The pain would come and then subside. After a couple of sleepless, painful nights, my husband and I decided to head to the ER.
I don’t remember much in the ER other than a lot of waiting and being very, very hungry. I was not supposed to eat anything, and I remember not really understanding why, although they may have told me it was to be ready for surgery if I had to go that route. All I knew was that I was newly pregnant and felt weak, light-headed, and nauseated from lack of food.
The other thing I remember was the doctor. He was young, arrogant, and spoke down to me and my husband. After a full day of tests, including an MRI because they wouldn’t do a CT scan due to my pregnancy, he discharged us after I asked to please have a cracker, anything. He said, “See, you are hungry. It’s not appendicitis. You are just pregnant.” Apparently loss of appetite is a common symptom of appendicitis. Looking back, I realize the simplicity at which he was looking at my case, instead of considering my whole situation, including the fact that I was newly pregnant and may have different symptoms than a typical textbook appendicitis case.
We left with no answers and thousands of dollars in monthly payments. I was devastated and angry, despite the 30% self pay discount they offered us. We were a young family struggling to make it on one income and with one day in the ER I felt like we were set back years. I remember thinking, “I am never going back there.”
The pain didn’t stop. but I felt like there was nothing else to do but hope for the best.The doctor had said I was “just pregnant”, right? He knew best, right?
My husband knew better. He called the hospital back and had one of the surgeons look over the imaging scans again, stating my pain had not gone away. The surgeon took the time and the precaution to call me back in for exploratory surgery, sensing something was not right.
My husband dragged me back, kicking and screaming. All I could think about was how much a surgery was going to cost us. The receptionist and my husband convinced me the finances could wait; for now, it was most important to see what was going on. I wasn’t so sure.
The pictures taken during the surgery showed my appendix oozing poison in multiple locations, spilling into my body. It was successfully removed, the poison sucked out, but I was told to be ready to lose the baby. I had planned to have my second homebirth with a midwife, but with the unexpected complications, I wanted a doctor to see me and my baby, if he or she were still alive. I scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN…
…to be continued in Part 2.