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‘It’s in absolute chaos’

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Pic: ©The Mayo News

Left in a storage press for 15.5 hours:  Shocking testimony from an MUH patient and her mother



Michael Gallagher

This week, The Mayo News was contacted by a mother and daughter who relayed their shocking experience of three days spent in Mayo University Hospital. At their request, their names have been kept private.
“I’m 21 years old, a very healthy, active person,” the patient told The Mayo News. “I had a pain in my back and side, which was getting progressively worse for two days. I thought I had pulled something but eventually realised it was something more serious. My mother phoned Westdoc and the nurse there told her to get me over to the hospital as quickly as possible.”
Her mother explained that they put her in the car and brought her straight over to MUH, which is roughly 20km from their home. “It was half two in the morning; it was raining and cold; she was in terrible pain, yet we had to wait in a tent outside and keep ringing the bell until someone came out to us,” she said.
Her daughter explained that the A&E ‘was packed’, but they took her into a room and took her bloods. She was delighted to hear that the results would be back in an hour-and-a-half, believing ‘I’d be home before morning – back in my own bed getting better’.
“They told Mam she’d have to leave, but I didn’t want her to go because the pain was so bad I couldn’t even talk. I needed her with me to be my voice.” However, her mother had to comply, and she went home.

Put in ‘a press’
“There was no trolley or bed for me, and they apologised for this. They brought me down the back of the A&E and put me into what I can only describe as a press,” said the young woman.
“It was a little storeroom where they keep buckets and cleaning equipment. It was tiny – a place where you’d only fit three people standing up,” the young patient said. “They put me on a plastic chair there just before 3am. I didn’t mind it too much because I was sure I’d be out of there at four o’clock and be heading for home.
“Nobody came to me at four; nobody came at five. I was in terrible pain and couldn’t really move my legs at that stage.”
She texted her mother, saying “I’m in a room and nobody’s coming to see me.”
“I thought she was in a private room with the door closed out – little did I think she was hidden away in a storeroom,” her shocked mother explained.
The wait was taking a huge toll on the young woman. “I was so thirsty, and the pain was almost unbearable but Mam kept texting me, saying ‘You’ve got to get out somehow and tell someone you’re there’. I grabbed the door and pulled myself up and saw a nurse passing. I managed to ask if my bloods had come back. She said they had but I’d have to wait until a doctor saw them.
“Another hour passed, and then a cleaner saw me and got me a cup of water and got a nurse who put me on a drip. Eventually, at 11 in the morning, a doctor came to see me. I had been in the press for eight hours at that stage.”
During that time, her mother was frantic. “I had been ringing A&E the whole time, desperate to find out what was happening, but nobody was answering,” she told The Mayo News. “I have a friend who works in a different area of the hospital, so I rang her and asked her to try and see what was happening.
“She went to the nurses in A&E and asked where she [the patient] was, but they didn’t know. They couldn’t find her.
“There had been a changeover of shift and nobody realised she was in the store. My friend was very worried and looked outside in the waiting room and all around. She met the cleaner who said there was a girl down in the store[room].”

‘Extreme pain’
Eventually, the young woman was seen – but in the corridor. “The doctor got me onto a trolley in the hallway to examine me in front of everyone. I was in extreme pain. He said it looked like appendicitis but needed an ultrasound to confirm it. Then, I had to go back into the press again and wait.
“I asked him if Mam could come over to mind me and talk for me, but he snapped back that the place was overcrowded already and she couldn’t come. I felt so on my own and I was in so much pain.”
It also seems that she was not told how to prepare for the ultrasound. “Nobody told her she needed a full bladder for the ultrasound,” her mother said. “All she had all night was the cup of water the cleaner brought her and the drip, which had long run dry.”
Eventually, she got more water – but only thanks to her mother’s friend. “Mam’s friend came back in the afternoon and got me another cup of water. She couldn’t believe I was still there in the press.
“They brought me down for an ultrasound at 4pm, but they couldn’t do it because I didn’t have a full bladder. The ultrasound people were fuming and rang A&E to give out. They sent me back to A&E, back to the press, back to that awful chair.”
Her nightmare was not about to end, however. “A doctor came and apologised at that stage. He said I’d have to wait until morning, as they couldn’t do another ultrasound and there was nowhere else for me to go. At that stage I was on that chair in the press without a blanket or a pillow or anything for 14 hours.”

‘No social distancing, no privacy’
The young woman’s mother was ‘going mad at home’ with worry. She rang another friend who works in the hospital, she explained, and that friend arranged for another ultrasound, adding: “They gave her water at that stage.”
Meanwhile, the patient’s ordeal continued. “They brought me down for the second ultrasound and back to the press again. I was abandoned there because there was no space anywhere else, no bed, no trolley, no nothing. I was frightened. The pain was horrendous, and if I collapsed on the floor I could be there for hours, because sometimes nobody came near me for hours.”
Her mother could take no more, and she went to the hospital again. “I managed to get in past security at that stage, and a male nurse seemed to take pity on her. He said there was a trolley going free and to try and grab it while we could.
“Try and imagine that for a minute – a rich country like Ireland and people are actually grabbing trolleys off each other in A&E in Castlebar. The trolleys were all along the corridor, end-to-end, no social distancing, no privacy!”
The young woman was told she would undergo surgery the next day ‘if the pain was still bad’. “A doctor came along and said if the pain was still bad in the morning they’d operate on me,” she explained. “They gave me painkillers at that stage, but I got sick immediately because I had not eaten since I came into the place, and there was nothing in my stomach.
“At 4 o’clock the next morning they transferred me to the Surgical Ward, but just left my trolley inside the door of that area – not in a ward or anything.
“The surgical team came in at half-eight and said there wasn’t enough evidence to operate. They said it could be my kidneys, ovaries or pancreas. I was going mad with pain at that stage.”

‘Worst night of my life’
The young woman’s mother couldn’t keep away. “I sneaked in again that morning, and the nurse was delighted to see me because I could mind [my daughter]. At midday, things had got so bad that the nurse managed to get one of the surgical team back to see her and, long-story-short, he said they’d have to operate.
“They wanted to prep her for surgery there in the corridor, but I objected strongly. They put her into a room and just handed her the surgical gown and disposable underwear. How was she supposed to put them on if I wasn’t with her?”
Eventually, she was taken for surgery.
“After the operation I came back, and the nurse told Mam to go home. That was the worst night of my life. They hadn’t time to check on me regularly, and I was getting sick. I’d ring the bell for them to come, but sometimes I got sick before they could get to me.”
Then her mother got an awful phonecall. “My friend checked on [my daughter] in the morning and rang me to say she was in a bad way – very sick and a high temperature. I went straight over and found her. She grabbed my hand and said ‘don’t leave me.’
“A new nurse was on and she ate me for being there. I apologised and told her I sympathised with the terrible working conditions they found themselves in, but I was out of my mind worried about my daughter.”

‘Pure torture’
“Mam helped me in and out of the toilet and told me if I ate something and managed to walk a little I’d be able to get home. I wanted that more than anything,” the young woman said. “I felt so sick, but I just wanted to get out of there because it was pure torture being in there. I never want to ever see that place again.”
Her mother explained that later that day, her daughter was released. “A lovely doctor came along and checked her over in the afternoon and said if I was happy to bring her home she’d be better off there. The nurse told me that was totally against regular protocol but agreed.”
Although the patient was in pain, the idea of staying was to her unthinkable. “I wasn’t fit enough to get out of the chair and I wasn’t fit to walk down the stairs but I had to get out. I vomited all night after getting home, and I was in and out of sleep, but the next morning I was improving.”
Her mother was hugely relieved to have her home. “We were still worried about her, but knew she was safer at home, and if she got sick again we’d bring her to Galway where she would be rightly looked after.
“We’re not complaining about the staff in Castlebar, but we’re saying the place is in chaos. The staff are working in terrible conditions and there’s no communication with family members outside. Once a patient goes through the doors it’s as if they’re in outer space – you can’t get any information and nobody knows what’s happening.
“It’s our community hospital, and we need to support it, but it’s in absolute chaos. We didn’t want to have to speak to The Mayo News, but if everyone stays quiet nothing will change.”