"Allergic reactions with no known cause"

About: Rockingham General Hospital / Emergency Department

(as the patient),

It's happened more than once at different hospitals, but on this particular occasion my face was red and blotchy with a rash, my face was swollen (admittedly hard to tell if you don't know me as I have a very round face) and I was obviously struggling to breath when I talked. I went up to the admitting nurse and as soon as I said I was having an allergic reaction but didn't know what to I was asked what made me think that I was having an allergic reaction. My husband tried to answer for me but she ignored him and kept making me answer despite my lack of breath. Luckily in this particular instance I was called through to triage quickly and as soon as the doctor looked in my throat he called for resus. This lack of belief had happened on other occasions, to the point that last time I had the sort of asthma attack that I should have gone to Rockingham hospital for. But because of a previous experience that caused me to lack confidence in the service, I just took maximum of my rescue meds as I could, and hoped for the best as I just couldn't take it anymore. I now am diagnosed with a condition that causes my mast cells to act crazy so might be taken more seriously next time but I doubt it as I think the fact that I'm staying calm (if I panic it gets even harder to breath so I fight very hard to stay calm) makes them think I'm faking even though I might be terrified inside.

Responses

Response from Kath Smith, Executive Director, Rockingham Peel Group, South Metropolitan Health Service

picture of Kath Smith

Dear Star,

Thank you for your feedback following what must have been a very frightening experience for you. Your ability to stay calm under such circumstances is impressive. Please accept my apologies for any distress caused to you during your visit to our Emergency Department.

The admitting nurse you went up to would have been conducting a triage assessment of you which always includes a quick assessment of a patient’s Airway and Breathing to determine how urgently they need to be seen by a doctor. In this instance the nurse would have been trying to have you answer her questions as a patient’s ability to speak is a method used to assess breathing difficulties. It may have been better however if you and your husband had been advised of this so that you both understood what was happening. Following this you were called through quickly and seen by a doctor which is the correct action for a patient with airway or breathing problems.

I understand that this experience may have caused you to lack confidence in our service but I would like to reassure you that all triage staff at RGH ED complete comprehensive triage training in line with the Department of Health Australasian Triage Education and all complete annual competency in this.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to post your story and I am sorry that this was your experience. I will let the ED staff know about this and remind them of the importance of good communication including explaining to patients what is happening during their assessment.

Kind regards

Kath Smith

Executive Director

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