Epic Fail of a medical sort

Warning: this is ugly.

Do all hospitals leave the heart monitor hook-ups on a patient after a procedure? I discovered these when I was getting ready for bed. Good grief!

Do all hospitals leave the heart monitor hook-ups on a patient after a procedure? I discovered these when I was getting ready for bed. Good grief!

Yesterday, I had a routine colonoscopy. For those of us of a certain age, these preventative measures become just another nuisance of growing older. This was my third time in this rodeo. I get one every ten years, whether I want to or not. But it may be my last because I walked away with a bad case of PTSD.

To recap: the prep is nothing short of disgusting–an evening of rushing to the toilet followed by a fitful sleep, then getting up at 3 AM to drink my final two liters of cold, yucky liquid to finish tidying up my bowels so I’d be prepared for my 11 AM procedure.

Thursday morning: the nurses were all very nice. I wasn’t worried going into this because I’d never had problems in the past. I thought I knew what to expect. But, for some reason, the anesthesia wore off too soon, and I awoke to the sound my own moans, groans and cries as someone skewered me with a dull blade of some sort. I remember hearing voices discussing the fact the doctor was having trouble finding passage through my troublesome colon, mostly I only remember the sound of my agony.

They must have given me more drugs because the next thing I knew I was alone in recovery, groggy and shaky. None of the nurses were present, but the person who took my initial intake info helped me up and handed me my bag of clothes. I got dressed and returned to be handed a tablet where I was supposed to grade my experience. At that moment, everything was a softly shaded blur. Since I remembered the nursing staff prior to the procedure quite clearly, I gave them high marks. (When I called the hospital to complain today, I told them they might want to re-think the legitimacy of any review given by a person under the influence of drugs. ;-) )

I was wheeled to my husband’s truck and that was that. Until he asked how it went and I remembered that moment of terror and pain and confusion when I awoke in the O.R. Call it a flashback. My hand is shaking while I write this.  My stomach clenches and my heart races every time I think about it.

Normally, I’m not one to complain. But I needed someone to know this happened so, hopefully, it won’t happen again. The hospital seemed to take my complaint seriously. I singled out the specialist who did the procedure…at least, I assume it was him and not a janitor they invited to have a go at me…for reprimand, in part, because he never spoke to me–not before or after. He didn’t wait around to see if I was okay–even though he might have guessed that I wasn’t…unless it was the janitor wielding the scope. As they wheeled my gurney into the operating room, I heard the doctor ask if this was patient number XXX. He didn’t say my name. He dehumanized me. Then he hurt me. But it was probably easier for him since I was just a number, not a person.

So, am I going to live? I hope so. Every twinge has me running for the thermometer, and I’m anxiously awaiting my first bowel movement to check for blood. (Never thought I’d ever write those words in a blog.) I am praying that my poor body has withstood this abuse and won’t hold a bad decision on my part against me. I thought twice about using a local doctor in my little one-horse town, but my primary physician, who I like very much, set up this referral. Next time, I will do my homework. (I did try to research the specialist’s name online, but nothing came up. I assumed that was a good thing.)

I’m diving back into to my deadline book. Wish me luck. And any advice on dealing with PTSD would be helpful.

On the bright side, nothing goes to waste for a writer, so you can probably look for something like to happen to some unsuspecting character in some future book. Guess who the bad guy will be? ;-)


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About Debra Salonen

From award-winning journalist to nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin's Superromance and American lines, Debra Salonen brings humor and heart to her stories. She was named Romantic Times Reviewer's Career Achievement "Series Storyteller of the Year" in 2006. Her popular Indie release, Are We There Yet, has been called "laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and just plain fabulous!" Cowgirl Come Home, her newest release for Tule Publishing, is a full-length novel set in Montana.

9 thoughts on “Epic Fail of a medical sort

  1. Hi Deb, I was reading about your ordeal. When my folks started having this screening done there was no anesthesia. They just bent you over the table and peoceded. You could see on a screen what was happening an feel aNd hear it all. Lucky me when it was my turn it was way better. I have often found those little stickers on my body too after a prodedure. The anesthesia does wear off too soon some of the time. Donnas IV came undone when she was having surgery ion her sinus so she was awake, could hear them talking, but couldn’t talk herself. She felt it all plus she was bleeding all over under the sheet from her arm. That was a horrific one. She felt great pain and couldn’t say a thing. Shit happens…unfortunately. I’m sorry you had a bad experience though. Keep your chin up. Love you, Linda

  2. Oh, my word, Linda, that sounds pretty awful for the old way and even worse for Donna. I think I’m going to be fine. As I told the two clinic reps I talked with today, just good old communication would have gone a long way to ease my worries. But all the main players disappeared. Medicine today has improved vastly AND gotten worse.

    Thanks for writing. Good to hear from you.


  3. I have one annually bexause of family history and I’m in my thirties. Request anesthesia next time and you won’t experience anything. Usually they use a twilight sedation so you aren’t truly out. I woke up once. Thankfully I was too confused about what was in front of me as it was the screen without my glasses on. No scary stuff thankfully. They had issues with my heart so now I get full anesthesia. No issues since.

  4. I used to do it without anesthesia because I hate it. my doctor and I would joke and talk throughout the procedure. I have Crohn’s Disease and have had many upper and lower endoscopies. He retired and I found a new doctor. She makes me use anesthesia, but whatever she gave me last time was great. I was in and out quickly.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. It shouldn’t happen that way. You should never be treated like a number. Hugs!

  5. I am so sorry that this happened to you. I have had a couple as well and the prep is horrible. I hope that they really do take your complaint seriously. I had a horrible experience with a dentist once, they gave me too much of the numbing medication and it put me into a full on panic attack, because I have tachycardia, which they knew, the rapid acceleration of my already rapid heart beat was way too much for me to handle. Now I have to be twilighted to get any dental procedures done and it is a struggle for me to agree to them to begin with Hugs.

  6. I remember a man named Ben, the dad who lived across from us growing up, he awoke during open heart surgery. The doctor initially denied it happened, but Ben was able to give a detailed account of what he heard discussed, and at that point, the doctor could no longer deny it. In his case, I think the doctor was really baffled (1970s), but there are now too many documented cases. It shouldn’t happen.

    The meds they give for endoscopies usually put you into a twilight type of going under, and that can distort a little of what happens. Not making excuses. I know when they go through certain turns in the bowel, it’s tricky and that’s where you would feel the pain of you were awake for the whole procedure. I just used the same breathing techniques I used during childbirth. I have no idea what kind a blade feeling you had is. No blades a used. And the pain usually comes from the air they use to help forward the camera and not from the camera itself. However, things can and do wrong sometimes.

    My advice would be to ask a friend whom sees a gastroenterologist regularly or go to a large GI practice where their experience with patients is compassionate.

  7. PS. My heart monitor strips were still on me when I got dressed after the procedure. I took them off. I think they leave them on through recovery before letting you go.

  8. If you come to the East Coast, Dr. Mary Harris is fabulous! Head of the department.

  9. I so appreciate all of these thoughtful and personal testimonies. I think some of my fear could have been mitigated if the doctor had taken the time to explain what happened and what I was experiencing.

    Meghan, I’m not sure I opened my eyes. That might have been even scarier. I’ve probably seen too many scary medical movies. ;-)

    Kimberly, thanks for the sympathy and empathy. Heart issues must be taken seriously. The last time I had a crown, I felt the dentist over-did the novacaine. Took many hours to dissipate, but, at least, I didn’t feel pain while he was working on me. I guess it’s a trade-off.

    Denise, you are so kind. I am not rushing into any more procedures. But it I lived near you I would take you up on the recommendation. This is one reason I made this public. People don’t talk about this kind of thing because it’s embarrassing, but, honestly, how else do you know? I didn’t even think about asking for referral advice. I just went with the guy my doctor sent me to. Never again. I am going to vet every doctor online and ask for advice from locals. That’s one good thing to come of this. I feel empowered.

    Thanks again, my friends. I am happy to say my system seems to be working fine with no bleeding! I even did yoga this morning. Yeah!!!



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