It was necessary because a lot of these patients weren’t able to sit or stand, but it made the job of the nurses, doctors and porters next to impossible. They zipped in and out between beds, administered medicine where needed and hooked others up to IVs.
My poor mother-in-law was shoved up against a wall near the emergency room entrance. One minute it was warm, too warm. The next minute a blast of cold blew through the corridor making patients shiver.
Behind Mary a little baby shared a chair with his mother. He squealed in pain. The nurses tried to appease him but it was difficult, both on the little boy and his mother.
Across the corridor we could hear a man coughing. It was a rough, dry cough. The owner clearly didn’t have the energy to lift his head.
He lay on a hospital bed, sheets strewn to the side. He was wearing a pair of jeans, an old looking shirt and had a hole in both his white socks. I’m not sure where his shoes were. He finally stopped coughing.
The sound of monumental pain echoed from the bed next to him. The sounds were ad hoc, but when they came from the small-framed woman propped up in a bed I felt for her. She was alone.
The nurses and doctors were just too busy to attend to her needs. She had been admitted but that’s as far as she got.
A sprightly looking woman had her leg propped up in a bed. She looked exhausted. Later on I spoke with her to discover she came to the hospital at 2 p.m. the previous day and was still waiting for a bed upstairs.
Beside her lay a man in his forties who had chest pains. His wife was worried. He wasn’t being kept in because scans showed nothing out of the ordinary.
He told me he was waiting three hours for discharge papers. He was lying in a bed that could have been used for someone else, but because the staff were so overrun they hadn’t time to release his bed.
Later that day we sat next to a lady in her nineties. She was frail. She didn’t have it in her to even speak.
After a few minutes of tossing and turning she called for a nurse. She looked in distress. No nurse could tend to her. She started vomiting.
John went to her bedside, propped her up and placed a jug underneath her chin so she would not choke while getting sick. The nurse came over, handed John a cardboard bowl and instructed him to hold it under the lady’s chin. He did as he was told.
I could see the woman was ever so embarrassed and very grateful at the same time. She was alone.
I stayed with Mary until lunchtime on the Friday. I left her in an exhausted state and not any closer to a bed in the hospital itself.
As I left the mayhem through the emergency room reception area there was another 40 or so people waiting to be seen to. It was unbelievable.
Mary finally got a bed in a ward upstairs at 5 p.m. on Friday. She was 23 hours in the emergency room.
We read about the state of our hospitals in the newspapers, we hear about it on the radio, we chat about it at dinner parties but to experience it, even indirectly, is a whole different story.
While living in New York we had our fair share of trips to the emergency room and the hospital. Each time we came away saying how wonderful the service was, even if it did cost us an arm and a leg (we didn’t have insurance).
The nurses and doctors were always so attentive, and although we may have waited two or three hours in an emergency room to be seen to or admitted, it was nothing like the craziness I experienced in Limerick last week.
I pray to God that I don’t have to bring either of my two children to the emergency room anytime soon.