Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The ER Visit

On January 24, 2013, I felt like I nearly died of a heart attack. Earlier in the evening I had been verbally attacked on the phone by a close family member for having moved away from Texas, and basically blaming me for everything falling apart for them because I moved, and then I was verbally attacked yet again on the phone for no reason out of the blue by a man (who I determined later was a psycho bipolar guy); who was cruelly telling me with a mean tone of voice that I was going to fail and would be "destitute" from doing my Angel Project. I experienced heart-attacked symptoms right after those phone calls. My heart felt like it had some seized-up palpitations, and my left arm shot out stiff, and felt numb, cold, shaky, and tingly from my left side all the way down to my fingertips. I am only 30 years old, how could this happen? I laid on my floor for awhile letting it pass, and eventually decided that I better call 911, because I'd never experienced anything like that before and it freaked me out. Not only did my heart and arm act crazy, but my right foot (the one that's been injured since January 2012) had begun to go completely cold since the night before, like it wasn't getting proper circulation, AND my left breast/armpit area had been hurting for a few months and had been progressively getting worse. I have never had to call 911 for myself before and never had to go to an ER or been in an ambulance, but this incident scared me enough to want to have some hospital staff check me out. I didn't have insurance, and I knew it would be costly, but I felt that it would be worth it to pay for the medical bills over time if they could help fix me. My health was in shambles and I desperately wanted some help.

The ambulance staff arrived shortly, and they put me in a chair, not on a gurney, and took me down to the ambulance. It was only a 1.5 mile drive to the hospital down the street, but they later billed me $1,400 for just the ambulance.

As they were wheeling me into the hospital, I couldn't shake the feeling that it felt like a staged set up with actors. The staff were all lounging around the entrance area, and they began joking around at me as I was wheeled in. I wasn't exactly in the mood or condition for joking, but I managed a weak smile.

They put me in a curtained area, and I laid there for a long time, with nothing happening. Eventually a business-looking woman with office attire and glasses came in and sat next to me. She made me sign my life away on a thick stack of documents before they would help me. I was feeling so bad that I could barely read or sign the papers. My signature on many of the pages is half tilted down the line because I wasn't functioning very well.  When she left, I laid there again for more time, and suddenly one of the staff members put their cell phone up to my curtain and played the song by Rhianna called, "Take A Bow" and they STARTED playing that song at the line where she says, "You look so dumb right now". I was deeply shocked and dismayed by this. Was this some kind of cruel joke??? Or a crazy sign? How could they be so heartless??  Maybe this particular hospital is used to getting the rich people who have minor panic attacks or something, because it was an upscale area hospital, but I was truly feeling awful and really hoping for help and care, but it seemed like they were making fun of me. Or maybe because I didn't have insurance, they didn't really want to help me. Who knows.

A young male doctor arrived, and wasn't very nice at all. He didn't seem to take me seriously, and came across very rudely with his tone and the way he looked at me. He said they'd take some blood and send me for a scan.

A nurse with long scraggly hair came in to take my blood, and she seemed VERY fake with her sincerity. She really hurt my arm taking my blood vials too. I've had blood drawn many times before, but however she went about doing it really hurt more than ever before. Shortly after she left, she returned and told me that "something went wrong with my vials", and she would have to retake my blood! She proceeded to repeat the painful process all over again! In hindsight, they were probably just taking the opportunity to rob me of my blood or something, not that I'd mind being a donor to someone in need, but the whole blood-drawing scene I experienced was very fishy to me.

I went in for the scan, and the technician says that the injection of fluid will make you feel like you pissed yourself. How lovely. And it did feel that way.

After the scan, I was put back in the curtain area again and left there for what felt like a pretty long time.
Eventually a different doctor came in to see me, this time a young female doctor. I felt like I was on the set of Grey's Anatomy. She said they didn't find anything wrong, she wrote me a prescription for Advil, and told the nurse to discharge me. I was so dismayed. I hadn't been helped at all or been given my blood work or scan results.

The nurse came in and threw a plastic bag on my bed. "Get dressed" she said, without any care or kindness.
I didn't want to, I felt shafted. I wanted some kind of help or better treatment and didn't get that. I laid there for just a few moments sulking in shock, and the nurse came and told me again to get dressed, so I did.
She led me down the hall. I was slowly limping on my cold numb foot and holding my left side where my pain was. I was still in my pajamas and pink bath robe. She took me to their lobby and told me to go home. I just sort of stood there in disbelief, because I'd arrived in an ambulance and had no one with me to take me home. I asked her how was I supposed to get home, it was pouring rain hard outside. She said I could call a cab, and then she turned and left me there. The lobby was totally empty, I was the only patient there. There were 2-3 staff members behind a desk in the lobby, but they paid no attention to me. The nurse reappeared and suddenly tossed me a coin. "There, you can take the bus" she said. As I said before, it was pouring rain outside and I was in my pajamas. I didn't particularly want to venture outside in that mess to wait for a bus and be seen in public in my condition. People would probably think I was an escaped mental patient limping around in my pink bathrobe and report me!

There was 1 red couch and lots of chairs in the lobby. I went to the couch and laid on it, trying to figure out what to do and processing the whole experience. I laid there looking dead and all alone for AN HOUR AND A HALF with tons of hospital staff pouring in through the front doors passing me, and no one ever checked on me. Not once. No wonder you hear about how some people actually die in lobbies and aren't discovered until hours later. There is such a lack of real compassion in this world. It's particularly sad that our country's medical field has become so heartless in many ways.

Eventually one of my friends came to pick me up and took me home, thankfully. I was eternally grateful for that.

I was relaying my story to one of my friends, Susana, who runs a small thrift shop that benefits the poor, and her response was disheartening: "Now imagine if your skin was brown", because she, too, has had some bad hospital experiences. She said that because she is a Hispanic woman, she's been treated really badly every time she's had to go in for anything. She started to tell me her stories, and I felt bad for her.

What has become of our medical field these days? How can they treat people like this and get away with it? It's like one big evil hungry machine. They can bill patients whatever the hell they want, and ruin people's lives with those amounts. With all the various charges (ambulance bill, individual ER doctor bill, blood work bill, scan bill, and hospital bill) it came out to a total of nearly $8,000 for that one 3-hour nightmare experience of not getting any real help and being treated like crap. There was no way I wanted to pay that amount for how I'd been treated. I found out that several of the bills offered patient assistance applications, so I went to work on filling all of those out, and managed to get most of my bills erased, except for the chest scan. I felt very lucky that I was able to get out of those bills. Some people get hounded by collections agencies or have to file for bankruptcy over medical bills.

This whole society is so jacked. Check out this video with great info about why healthcare costs are insane in the USA:

~Mandelyn Reese
The LA Street Angel


  1. I think you probably had a panic / anxiety attack. But since people in the medical field see things day in and day out ... it kinda makes them into zombies (unless it is something where the person isn't breathing, etc). Sad but true. People are just getting more and more apathetic. I think it is because everything is falling apart at such a fast rate that people shut down (and bury their heads in the sand, ie: distract themselves with stupid vapid stuff like reality TV, etc ... because they either don't know WHAT to do instead, or they themselves are in the midst of some sort of breakdown in their own lives). You see this everywhere these days - but more in big cities. This is really a hard thing to get used to if you are not from LA or NY. I remember in 1982 when I first moved from Uvalde, Tx to Dallas (which was a biiiiig city to me back then!) I used to get a headache after I would drive somewhere. Eventually I realized that it was because I was struggling to wave a everyone I passed or acknowledge them in some way while I was out and about! lol Now, as for healthcare in the U.S. Don't even get me started. I have a few real personal horror stories. If people don't think that it is a problem (and has been getting worse since the 80's) then they are either stupid or they are not being honest.

    1. I had 2 minor panic attacks (the only ones I've ever had) after my fiance broke up with me on my 21st birthday without warning back in 2003, but this heart attack episode was different from those.
      But yeah...medical staff these days are becoming more and more disappointing.