The only way I can explain the pain of kidney stones is to tell you that it feels like the spawn of Satan is trying to claw his way out of your body from the inside, with hands made of fire and knives.
I spent the last two weeks battling kidney stones. If you’ve never experienced them before, consider yourself lucky. And if you have, I see you.
About two weeks ago, my whimpering while I was curled up in a ball reeling from pain, woke up my husband and he took me to Boca Raton Regional Hospital. I knew it was a kidney stone before we even left the house. Once they scanned me and confirmed, the whole fluids and pain meds roller coaster began. It didn’t pass and they didn’t admit me. I went home with a strainer to pee in and pain meds that I can’t even take because they make me throw up like a college kid on spring break. The pain dissipated even thought I never passed a stone so I thought I was spared.
Exactly a week later I was celebrating my 2-yr-old’s completion of her early childhood program and I felt the pain. By the time I got home it was significantly worse and I tried to take the pain meds to see if it would help until my husband got home. The puking began shortly thereafter and once again I was in the fetal position on my bathroom floor crying.
When we arrived at the hospital for the second time in two weeks, I mistakenly thought it would be a breeze since I was just there, had a cat scan showing the stone and figured I’d be in front of a urologist before they even started another round of whatever they were throwing into the IV. What happened over the next 48 hours was appalling. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that in my 42 years of life, any experience I’ve had with doctors, nurses and hospitals has been mostly uneventful. This time, I was not so lucky.
The ER was packed. I know there can be chaos on a good day, especially in that area of any hospital but this was like a war zone. There were gurneys lined up along the hallway because of the lack of rooms. I was on one of the them for almost 7 hours and as if that wasn’t harrowing enough, I had a nurse who made me wish I was under the care of Kathy Bates in Misery. As I was curled up crying and fighting back vomit, my husband asked for a bucket. You would have thought I asked to cut the line on Splash Mountain based on the nurse’s reaction, which was reminiscent of the bitchy boss Meryl Street played in The Devil Wears Prada, as she snapped, “I’M WORKING ON IT!!!” I can now confirm the Devil actually wears a pair of blue scrubs.
Everything took hours. Everything. Even though they knew I had a stone. Even though I had been there a week prior. I couldn’t have been an easier case but it’s like the busier the ER got, the more frazzled the staff became. I needed a urologist. But all they did was send internists who kept pumping me full of pain meds that made me sick. I didn’t eat or drink anything for two days which made my condition worse. They moved me four times around different spots in the ER and tried for a fifth, but my husband put the kibosh on that.
While we did have a few incredible nurses, the bad ones were so bad that it didn’t even matter. The first time my husband called for a hospital administrator was when we finally got placed in a semi-private room. She was nice and apologetic and gave us the whole, “this isn’t how we operate and it will be addressed” schtick. But nothing changed. It just got worse. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this was the same hospital where I delivered my youngest daughter. I could not have asked for a better experience and the more I spoke to people the more they echoed that the Labor & Delivery department seems to be the only area that has it together in this place.
It took 22 hours for them to get a urologist in front of me. The fact that we were in a hospital filled with doctors and they had a patient with a known condition and still couldn’t get it together is beyond alarming. And guess what happened when I saw that doctor? Surgery was scheduled for the next morning and they continued to fill my body with drug after drug to keep me comfortable. This could have been done the day before. My entire stay and the drugs in my system and my unbearable pain could have been halved.
The evening before my surgery was the worst part. I was crawling out of my skin and my new nurse actually got agitated at my distress, stormed out of the room and threw his hands up yelling, “There’s nothing I can do!” He acted like my toddler when I take the iPad away. A grown man, who chose a career in nursing, got annoyed that a patient was in distress crying, begging, pleading for help. Dude, you have one job.
To the good nurses out there, you are saints. I know it’s not easy to deal with patients in pain or in general. But those of you who take pride in your job and have compassion and bedside manner deserve praise and I appreciate the shit out of you. But the ones like this waste of space, who chose a career he’s clearly not cut out for, are the ones who are screwing up the already broken system and giving the good guys a bad rep.
That was the second time my husband called for a hospital administrator. Again, we were met with apologies and promises to look into this and they even upped the ante with a free voucher for a meal at the hospital bistro up to $7.50 in value. I think that was the only time I cracked any sort of smile. I don’t know that there’s a bigger “screw you” to a patient who has been through the ringer and fallen victim to horrible protocols and even worse nursing staff, than a comped hospital meal.
I could have left it at that. But the more I started to think about the whole situation the angrier I became. When you enter a hospital as a patient you are automatically vulnerable. Whether you like it or not. You are at the mercy of the staff, the policies and whatever is happening that day in the hospital. What if my husband wasn’t there? How much longer would I have laid in that hallway puking into a bucket? How many more hours would they fill my veins with pain medications my body couldn’t handle? How is it so damn hard to get a doctor to see a patient in a hospital???? None of it makes sense because our system is broken and Boca Raton Regional Hospital is proof of that.
I’m disgusted at what I experienced and I wrote a letter to the hospital’s CEO detailing my thoughts (which I am also sharing below). I didn’t want to feel helpless or just let it go, because it’s a big deal and I know it’s happening everywhere. I know there are so many people with similar experiences who don’t even think about speaking up. Maybe they don’t know that they are allowed? Maybe they’re scared or just can’t find the words. What happens to those people?
I doubt he’ll care. He’ll read it and have his assistant send a stock response dripping with apologies and buzzwords meant to diffuse the situation. He’ll have someone call me after I rip them apart in a survey to try and turn it around so they can improve their scores. Because at the end of the day it all goes back to the business of running a hospital and the patients are the ones who matter least when they should actually matter most. And if you have awful experiences please speak up. It’s the only way we will ever drive any sort of change.
The full letter is below for anyone who wants to read it and share it.
LETTER TO BRRH CEO
Dear Mr. Fedele,
I’m sure you are bombarded with mail and messages on a daily basis. I thought about my words sitting on your desk for weeks and possibly never being seen, before ending up in the annals of some filing cabinet bursting with grievances that you are required to save as part of some legal due diligence. I thought about writing nothing at all, knowing realistically that my one voice probably means nothing to you and therefore wouldn’t actually change anything. Then I decided, even despite all of that, it’s my responsibility to speak up.
On Wednesday, May 22nd I walked into the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Emergency Department with severe pain from kidney stones. The same pain I was there for exactly a week prior, when I was given fluids and pain medication and told it needed to pass on its own. It didn’t. So when I returned a second time for the same exact thing with a cat scan already in the books, I mistakenly thought things might even be easier and therefore expedited more efficiently. However, the experience was the opposite of efficient. It was appalling, actually. I could go on and on with a lengthy narrative detailing every single disastrous thing, but instead I’m going to break down some numbers for you since I’m sure that’s your priority in running a hospital.
However, I’m a writer and numbers are not exactly my strong suit. So, I’m going to go ahead and add a little context to those figures for you. Maybe help put things in perspective
6.5 HOURS. That’s how long I sat, reeling from pain in the fetal position, on a gurney in the hallway because there were no rooms. I was technically admitted at 10pm on the 22nd and did not get moved out of the ER until 3 p.m. the following day.
2 ATTENDING PHYSICIANS. Both of whom already knew I had kidney stones but could do nothing other than continue to pump me with fluids and pain meds as I had to continuously walk to and from a public bathroom weaving through countless people to urinate in a strainer, since I had no room of my own.
2 NASTY NURSES. Our first nurse in the ER, (NAMEREMOVED), had the bedside manner of someone attending a funeral and got visibly annoyed and even snapped at my husband when he asked for a bucket so I could vomit. The second nurse, (NAMEREMOVED), was assigned to me when I finally got a semi-private room. I was at the point where pain meds weren’t touching my pain and I was literally screaming and crying, begging for help. (NAMEREMOVED) stormed out of the room, threw his hands up and yelled, “There’s nothing I can do!”
22 HOURS. Even though I had been there a week prior confirming the presence of a kidney stone. Even though I had visits from multiple internists on call, it took 22 hours for the ER department to get a urologist in front of me. If you really want to get technical, a physician did not lay eyes on me from 10:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. the following day. And that was after an egregious amount of times asking to see a doctor.
4 ROOMS. That’s how many times I moved. The Hallway >>Two different ER rooms>>A semi private room. It would have been five because they tried to move me one more time to another ER area before I got my room, but I was doubled over, throwing up and my husband thankfully stood his ground and said we were not moving until it was out of the ER. If my husband did not continue to fiercely advocate for me, I would probably still be in that hallway.
2 HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATORS. My husband had to call for them twice. Once while still in the ER when it had been hours and I had yet to see a doctor again while my condition was rapidly declining. Then again when I was in my actual room and (NAMEREMOVED) got agitated at my distress and threw in the towel. While both administrators were pleasant and apologetic, they said this would be “addressed.” I spent more than two decades in public relations and know what that means. It’s one of those corporate buzzwords meant to diffuse a situation leading the person with the grievance to believe that someone is going to lay down the hammer behind the scenes. But we both know that nothing actually happens, because if it did, I would not have received hundreds of comments from local residents with similar stories when I shared my experience on social media.
1 FREE MEAL. That’s what we received as we were nearing the final hours of our horrid stay. An administrator handed my husband a voucher for a free meal at the hospital up to a $7.50 value as a “small token” for our inconvenience.
I had surgery early Friday morning and went home later that day not only suffering from pain but traumatized from the whole experience. While we had a few phenomenal nurses and the surgeon along with his team who performed the procedure, the negatives were so bad that the positives paled in comparison. I would have been treated better by a feral cat than to be under the care of (NAMEREMOVED) and (NAMEREMOVED). And while I know the baseline of an ER can be a certain level of chaos, this felt more like a war zone. There was zero sense of urgency. Compassion was hard to come by and I know I wasn’t alone. Also, I recognize that nurses are human and all have a patience threshold. But here’s the thing, when you make the choice to have a career in nursing that means you have one job – to care for your patients and that means showing compassion, sympathy and patience, no matter what. You don’t get the luxury of throwing a tantrum like a toddler who got the wrong color sippy cup because the ER is busy.
I was in that abysmal situation from Wednesday – Friday. Away from my two young children, the younger of which was delivered in your maternity ward and was a completely different experience. Perhaps your maternity ward nurses should be the ones providing training and management to other areas of your hospital because they seem to be the only ones who have it together. Also, I want to make a point to call out the handful of wonderful people we encountered, because despite everything, they deserve to recognized. You should personally thank nurses like Sara & Casey from the ER and Art, Faith, Sabrina and Jarrod from the 7th floor, because they are good humans and really pick up the slack for your weakest links. The biggest issue here is that nobody on that ER floor thinks they did anything wrong because they were following protocol. But your protocol sucks and that’s a huge problem causing the worst domino effect ever.
As a Boca Raton resident and a published writer, I share my personal life often on social media with my 40+ thousand followers. This was no different. I can’t even count the amount of South Florida residents who had similar stories to tell about your hospital (again, except for maternity). I spoke to people who travel more than an hour away just to avoid Boca Regional’s ER. You have alienated people in your own backyard because of your system being broken and that is ridiculous.
This letter may end up in your files or even in the trash, but I will not stop advocating for change. Not just for myself, but for the others who don’t have the voice, the words or the knowledge that they can and should speak up. How dare you allow the hospital to be run like this. I pray that you or nobody in your family ever has to experience this side of Boca Regional, although that’s probably the only thing that would actually drive some real change.
I’m open to continuing this conversation at any time.