"Treatment in Emergency Department"

About: Maroondah Hospital / Emergency Department

(as the patient),

I am a young patient, who currently lives in supported accommodation, run by Launch Housing. This is a service for young people who have experienced or been at risk of homelessness. I have been diagnosed by multiple health professionals at both Box Hill Hospital and CYMHS (Child and Youth Mental Health Service) to have Psychogenic Non-epileptic seizures. At their core, they are a dissociative experience in response to stress and a previous experience of trauma. 

After being transported from Box Hill to Maroondah Hospital, by NPT (National Patient Transport) for an admission into PAPU (Psychiatric Assessment and Planning Unit), I was in the waiting room of the emergency department. In response to the stressful environment, and my experience in the days leading up to this experience, I began to have what I believed to be a Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizure (PNES). My level of awareness during these episodes vary, however during this episode I was able to hear sounds around me, and physically feel what was being done, but had limited response. The driver from NPT alerted nurses, I was lifted by my arms and legs onto a bed and moved into a more private section of the hospital. I was surrounded by what seemed to be up to 10 nurses, paramedics and then doctors who were all shouting my name. A sternum rub was performed, which contributed further to my stress and I began to convulse more rapidly. I began to have ECG dots placed on my chest, by multiple people, which prompted me to withdraw, and my arms started tremoring uncontrollably.  One particular doctor walked in and ordered for forceful suction into my mouth, which I felt painfully jab at my gums. The same doctor then said - this is definitely a psuedoseizure. It's a convincing one, but definitely psuedo. She's committed, but not 100% committed. Both of my eyes were then squirted with saline solution, after which I felt my awareness to my physical surroundings return and I was able to look around the room. The experience, and especially the words of that doctor left me feeling deeply upset, invalidated, humiliated and exacerbated my feelings of low self worth. I felt hopeless and worthless. After being admitted into PAPU, I withdrew and shut down, believing that the previous diagnosis of PNES was incorrect and I had been lying about my symptoms or faking the symptoms that others had witnessed. After being admitted into PAPU, the experience and the words of that doctor continued to replay in my mind, and contributed to a return of plans to end my life or harm myself in some way. 

This is not the first time I have felt invalidated at Maroondah Hospital. Approximately 6 months ago, I had a similar experience in the emergency department, where a doctor walked into my cubicle, began shouting my name louder and louder, began touching me and telling me that I was just having a panic attack, and that I needed to snap out of it. It upsets me to see that nothing has changed. Regardless of whether or not my experience was psychogenic or a psuedoseizure, for me the experience is very real. I believe the most recent conduct of the doctor was unprofessional and felt aggressive to me as the patient. As someone having a previous experience of family violence that forced me to leave home, the way I was treated caused reminders of trauma and did more harm than good. I hope that the nurses and doctors at Maroondah are given more updated information surrounding psychogenic seizures, mental health issues and the treatment regarding patients with experiences of trauma. 


Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of David Plunkett

Dear launch-stu

Thank you for taking the time to share your poor experience and the effect this had on you. I would like to apologise your experience was not a positive one and that it left you feeling the way it did. I would also apologise this was similar to a previous experience you have had.

In order for us to review and learn from your experience, I would encourage you to make contact with one of the Patient Relations Advisors in the Eastern Health Centre for Patient Experience either by calling 1800 EASTERN or sending an email to feedback@easternhealth.org.au

I hope we hear from you soon launch-stu, and wish you the very best of health.

Kind regards


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