My Patient Experience

If someone had warned me that four months after joining the St Joes Healthcare team, I’d also be doubling down as one of its ED patients, I wouldn’t have believed them.  Although perhaps, following the whirlwind that was 2020, I should have been prepared to kick off the New Year on an unexpected note…

The first Monday back to work after two consecutive holiday weeks was bound to be challenging, but I most certainly did not anticipate a trip to the ER by nightfall.  Shortly after lunchtime and immediately following a spirited interview with an Emergency Medicine candidate, I found myself hunched over the desk in my makeshift bedroom office.  What began as feelings of fatigue, slight fever and nausea, rapidly progressed into severe lower abdominal pains, vomiting and dizzy spells ultimately resulting in loss of consciousness.  Before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the floor in fetal position, clutching my swollen stomach in agony and attempting to squeak out cries for help to my fiancé’, who was also working from home at the time.

The look on my partners face was nothing short of bewilderment and grave concern when he made his way upstairs, especially as only an hour earlier I had been perfectly fine.   I lost count of the number of times he exclaimed variations of “What’s wrong?”, “What can I do?”, “Are you ok?”, and eventually found myself equally uncomfortable, but at least in bed.  For six hours I attempted to “breathe through” intense pain, the likes of which I had only ever experienced during childbirth and while passing a kidney stone.

As the daughter of a career nurse and an admitted Google and WebMD aficionado, countless scenarios were playing out in my head…a self-diagnosis recipe for disaster!  This myriad of symptoms could be attributed to any number of issues – appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, bowel obstruction, a perforation caused by my IUD, or much to my horror when suggested…gas.  As the hours dragged on and my condition worsened, it became abundantly clear that I needed to be seen.

With much help, I eventually hobbled to the car and minutes later pulled into the hospital’s emergency entrance, clinging to the hope that I would not be forced to endure a long wait alone.  I will preface the following by saying that as an employee, I knew better…upon entry I was greeted by an evening nurse, who gently reminded me that due to Covid restrictions, visitors were not permitted to accompany patients, even amidst dire situations.  I looked back at my fiancé’, took a shallow breath, and felt a grapefruit-sized lump begin to form in my throat.  With tears streaming down my paper medical mask- clad face, I assured him that I would be ok and would keep him informed as I learned more.

With each passing moment I felt my anxiety climbing to new heights, envisioning the most embarrassing of scenes – toppling over in the full waiting area or even worse, being ill all over myself and the innocent bystanders…not my finest hour.  Thankfully, I was called into triage quickly and after a brief exam, it was determined that I had just made my way to the top of the list.  Never have I been so thankful to put on a johnny and climb into a hospital bed.

As the night pressed on, I encountered several clinicians, none of whom were aware initially that I too, was a St Joes employee.  All were incredibly kind, comforting and genuinely sympathetic about the obvious discomfort that I was in, all the while assuring me that collectively, they would get to the bottom of what was ailing me.  A battery of tests, blood draws and questions persisted and halfway into what would be a nearly 8-hour visit, it was determined that an otherwise undetected cyst on my right ovary had ruptured.  Good news, all things considered, as I had braced myself for an appendectomy or body bag, whichever came first…

This was, as it often is in an ED setting, only half the battle.  My belly continued to grow, filling with excess blood and fluid, and CT imaging revealed two additional complex cysts on my left ovary.  Now it became necessary to call in an ultrasound tech (my midnight angel) as well as consult with an on-call OB/GYN specialist at a neighboring facility.  All of this for a couple of cysts?!

As the clock ticked by, my family at home became increasingly concerned, feeling helpless and worried that I may not be released that evening.  When I finally worked up the courage to inquire about the timeframe for discharge, the nurse who provided most of the care throughout my stay, softly shared that there was a possibility I may need to be transported elsewhere for further observation.  This was the moment when true empathy set in…as I lay in that bed staring up at the ceiling, unsuccessfully choking back tears of pain, fear, exhaustion and frustration, it occurred to me how hundreds of thousands of patients in the U.S. must have felt over the past year, while battling the pandemic that continues to cripple the world.

The attention and compassion that was provided to me is unlike anything I have experienced elsewhere, be it in an urgent care or medical office setting.  The individuals who comprise the ED team at St Joes are second to none, emulating the Organizations core values in ways that you can’t fully grasp simply by learning about them in a new hire orientation or by referencing a brochure.  Although my diagnosis was one that pales in comparison to many others, the team’s approach did not differ – my pain became theirs and together we made it through the night.

As a newfound healthcare recruiter, it has been critical to not only become familiar with the litany of medical terms, procedures, bylaws and politics that accompany any hospital setting, but also to shine a light on the services provided to our patients and community members, regardless of circumstance.  As a lifelong Bangor resident, I was familiar with St Joes and its Mission prior to accepting this role.  I have spent countless hours sharing insight and examples of exceptional patient care and a differentiated employment experience with many candidates.  None of that compares to the personal testimony that I am now able to provide through the eyes of a patient…

To those of you who so graciously and without judgment held my hand, kept me company, assisted me in and out of bed and to the restroom countless times and ultimately reassured me that regardless of the outcome,  I was going to be alright, thank you from the bottom of my heart – I am truly humbled and blessed to part of this amazing team!