"Embarrassed and now afraid of asking for help."

About: Maroondah Hospital

(as the patient),

I first presented to the Emergency Department at Maroondah Hospital with an incredible amount of back pain which had intensified, as well as significant chest pain radiating through to the left side of my chest. I was referred with the advice of my Physiotherapist who believed that I may have significant damage to my spine and require further investigation to rule this out. I was promptly seen within minutes of arrival.

The doctor who was assigned to me during my period in Emergency attempted to treat my pain with analgesia which did not help me. She then decided to admit me to the ward for further pain management.

By this point I was taken for a CT scan after which  I was told that I had some narrowing of my spinal canal and that there may be pressure on my spinal cord. I agreed to be admitted in the hope that the pain I was experiencing could be controlled and the issue that I had could potentially be resolved.

During this period I was informed that there was no MRI scan facilities available and I may be required to be transferred to Box Hill Hospital where this could be provided for me. However, this did not occur.

During the time I was admitted, I was given a plethora of analgesia, which did not so much treat the pain, but caused me a great deal of drowsiness. I had trouble sleeping due to the level of noise on the ward (which I do understand is normal) and found that I was not getting a great deal of rest during the time I was admitted.

The following day, I had the doctor and his team on the ward come to visit me and my mother was present during this time. The doctor introduced themselves, but came across cold and uncaring. The doctor asked me to recount the reasons for my pain, then proceeded to explain that the pain I had was due to the narrowing of my spinal canal and that the spinal cord may be pinching.

The doctor then went on to state that because I am ‘young’ this could be managed by analgesia and light exercise and that they would refer me to a psychologist to manage my pain. I found this quite intimidating. The doctor was not willing to investigate further and when I explained my personal situation and that I require my back to mobilise effectively and work, this doctor did not take my concerns into account and came across as though they assumed that I was wasting their time and being a burden – basically taking up a bed for no reason.

My mother was shocked at the doctors response and I became very upset. During this time my mother had to leave as she was required to move her car and assumed that I was going to remain there for a little longer and they would investigate further. I felt as though I had been treated as if I was there to drug seek, that my pain wasn’t real and it had stemmed from mental issues, which I know very well that I do not have.

I am generally a very positive person. I have no reason to feel the need to drug seek, nor hold back my life in any way. I am keen to work, get out in the community and return to family life. I have no intention of sitting at home and taking analgesia, nor bludge because of this issue.

The whole concern was that I want this pain to stop, if not briefly so I could be me, get out in the community and follow my dreams. This is my back, it is a part of my life, what I don’t understand is that they expected me to go back home and manage this pain in my daily life. It came on acutely- it is hard to live with and is interfering in my daily living, but somehow this is not worthy of my ability to live my life.

I thought we are supposed to encourage and empower patients and do the best we can to ensure they can live independently and freely in the community. I do not want to be limited in my life because of this and because nobody wants to treat my issues, I feel as if nobody cares.

I sat in the bed in the hospital overwhelmed and teary and nobody came to comfort me and listen. I had one nurse come in and say to me, ‘Have you rung your mother to come and pick you up? ’ The doctor hadn’t even told me that I was being discharged and I was going home, that upset me more.

I explained to this nurse that my mother had only just left and her response was, ‘Well you need to call her to come back’. In my emotional state I felt worse and started to hyperventilate from all the stress. Another nurse came in to do my observations and had noticed how upset I was, she then tried to comfort me explaining that this was only ‘one opinion’ and that ‘I shouldn’t take it to heart'. I had to sign my discharge papers from there. As the nurse was trying to comfort me, another nurse walked in and told her that -she was busy, and that she had things to do - telling this nurse off for trying to comfort me. I was then informed that she would get into trouble because she wasn’t following the rules.

I thought that the patient comes first. I know I would never leave a patient in that state and expect it to be okay. It did not help how I was feeling and if anything, made me feel worse than I did when the doctor saw me. The whole purpose of going to Emergency was to stop the pain and instead I walked out of the hospital ashamed, angry and the pain I experienced was still there. Nothing has changed and I feel as though it would not have mattered if I had attended the Emergency Department to begin with.

I feel that this doctor was not willing to investigate further and he did not want to do any more tests. I felt like my concerns were not respected and he did not care for them.

The reason I am sending through this complaint is because currently I am sitting at home still in pain. I am angry and upset at the way I was treated during the time I was admitted in Maroondah Hospital. I had always had a great deal of respect for the team that worked within the Eastern Health Department. I even wanted to work with them eventually should I be given the opportunity. However it feels like there is a level of care that you only receive whilst being a patient, severe acute issues that are managed – unless there is a bone protruding out of your skin, or you are haemorrhaging, you aren’t worthy of true patient care.

I realise there are others who are in a worse condition than myself and I am only one person. I’m not here to ask of more pain medication and sympathy, but more that I am able to be given the opportunity to live the life I was given. I don’t want to be in this position. I don’t want to be pushed aside and sent to a psychologist. I want to emphasise that I do not have mental issues. I am a stable, balanced individual and all I want is for the issue in my back to be resolved so I can live a full life again.

I know that this may not go anywhere, but I needed to let someone know. I feel alone and as though I deserved it. I felt like a burden and that it wasn’t right.

I know that I will not be re-presenting to Maroondah Hospital should I need more help. I know I do need help at this point, but I am embarrassed and now afraid of asking for help in regards to my current circumstances.

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Responses

Response from Alan Lilly, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of Alan Lilly

Dear soreback123

Firstly, let me say how sorry I was to read about your experience at Maroondah Hospital. On reading through your story, I can see that this must have been quite distressing for both you and your mother. I can see that we let you down when you needed us most and some of the comments made by our staff have concerned you even more. This is not a good outcome especially that you have lost confidence in the people and services which are there to help you.

I want to see what I can do to turn things around for you as quickly as we possibly can. I will make some inquiries during today and tomorrow and then I will get back to you with an update and a suggestion as to what we can do to help.

In the meantime, please let me know if I can do anything further to help.

Kind regards, Alan Lilly.

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Response from Alan Lilly, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of Alan Lilly

Dear soreback123

By way of follow-up, I want to let you know that I was in touch yesterday with Kate Whyman, Chief of Clinical & Site Operations at Maroondah Hospital. Having reviewed your story, we feel it would be best to review your medical record in order to follow-up more specifically and thoughtfully and from there, to work out the best plan.

I would encourage you to write to me confidentially and directly at alan.lilly@easternhealth.org.au Please be reassured, that we will not print your name or details and my request is so that we can help you most effectively.

Kind regards, Alan Lilly

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Response from Gayle Smith, Executive Director, Quality, Planning and Innovation, Eastern Health

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Dear soreback123,

I am now responding to the Patient Opinion correspondence whilst Alan Lilly our CEO is on leave for a week. I know that you have been in direct contact with Alan and some of the other staff who were involved in your care. Thank you for making contact with us. I understand that your issues have been resolved and your future services confirmed. I am pleased that this has been resolved but please feel free to contact us again if you need to.
With my best wishes for your continued recovery.
regards,

Gayle Smith

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