Inside the ER – Denver Health, I’ve got half a mind to file a formal complaint

You know how people always say that crime shows give people a false sense of what police work is like? Well hospital shows do that too. I don’t know what was going on outside my room at Denver Health, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t any romances developing, or anything else that happens on those shows. To be honest, I don’t watch them. Never watched ER, never watched House, never watched Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, even though I’ve worked in law enforcement, and know that whatever goes on with the CSI people, that never happened in our crime lab. It was usually a lot more mundane and boring, with a lot less technology.

So rather than what DOESN’T happen, what *did* happen on my trip to the ER?

First, I got loaded up on the ambulance, where one of the techs complemented me on my shoes. And really, why wouldn’t he? They’re Sidis, and pretty much the sexiest cycling shoe out there. Handmade Italian leather, carbon fiber sole… Anyway, I digress. The guys in the ambulance got me hopped up on Fentanyl, only there wasn’t much with the hopping. It barely dented my pain. They kept talking to me, which is standard protocol to keep a patient from going into shock. When we got to the hospital, they put me into a room with a giant medical apparatus with arms that could go anywhere to meet needs….not that I could see any of this. For the first 6 hours, I was pretty much flat on my back with a neck brace on, until they could read my CT scans to make sure I didn’t injure my neck. (Which, thank goodness, I didn’t!)

The doctors and nurses in this first room were amazing. They worked on getting me stabilized, calmed down, and drugged up. The dilaudid that they kept giving me was not doing a single thing for the pain, which was maintaining a pretty steady 9/10. Each time they’d dose me, it would drop to 8.75, and I’d get a little woozy, and that was it. Finally, they brought back the Fentanyl, which was awesome, and made it so I could get up, go to the bathroom, sit up, have a conversation, etc. They sewed up my lip, got me through the X-rays and first CT scan, and I was pretty much good, except I needed to see the orthopaedic surgeon.

Ortho is where it all went wrong.

The orthopaedic team didn’t visit until about 8:30 or 9 pm, and at that point, I was exhausted. Mind, I got up at 7 am, biked 50 miles, THEN had the crash, THEN went through all the trauma and drugs of the evening, and I was pretty beat. The girl who came in to talk to us was short with me, didn’t take the time to listen (my voice was pretty hoarse, and I was weak), and poked at my injury and left. Shift change came, and we still heard nothing, other than that they wanted to do more CT scans. The doctor who was working with me was GREAT. I am guessing she was a resident, because she was just in green scrubs, but she was excellent. Got my lip sewn up, was VERY comforting, worked on getting the road rash cleaned up, and helped me go to the bathroom (which is no easy task when you’re connected to all the wires and cords and tubes and Oh, you are BROKEN.)

11:00 pm rolled around, and still nothing further from Ortho. I was stable, and so my lovely team of doctors sadly said they had to transfer me to a secondary room. I understood, since I was no longer level 1 trauma, and stable. The second room was smaller, and quieter. They got me settled in, with my head slightly elevated, the buzzer for a nurse near my hand (the hand attached to the broken shoulder, mind you, which was still non-functioning at this time.)

Since we were just waiting for another CT scan, I told the boyfriend it would be ok if our friend came and helped him go get the car, which was still in the SW part of town at the trailhead. He left for about an hour, and that is when all hell broke loose. It’s probably a GOOD thing he wasn’t there, because I think he might have actually smashed someone’s face in over what transpired next.


About 15 minutes after boyfriend left, a cheery little dude in purple scrubs came in to take me to my CT scan. Now, I had been without meds for quite some time. I was in pain. And this dumb little smilebox comes in, and didn’t disconnect everything before he starts to push my bed out the door. My neck, head and shoulder get wrenched to the right and back, and I scream, because it FUCKING HURTS. He then tries to calm me down with a “ooops, sorry” and disconnects the oxygen and other tubes, and then wheels me out. At this point, I’m sobbing, because it still hurts, it’s been about 2 hours since the pain meds wore off, I don’t know where I’m going, I’m laying *ON MY BACK* which has a GIANT BROKEN BONE, and then they take me to get the CT scan. The method of doing the CT scan is to lift the blanket I’m laying on, and to slide me onto a board – which pushes and presses against the *hello* BROKEN BONE again causing EXCRUCIATING PAIN. I’m trying to lay still for the CT scan, but I am sobbing, and in pain, and hurting, and I just want to get the fuck out of there and out of the hands of this amateur crew that keeps jostling me and hurting me.

They finally take me back to the room, hook up the oxygen wrong, and leave me there – without any way to call for help, additional meds, or anything. At least I have my phone on me, and I start texting boyfriend again, asking him to hurry back.

At this point, just before before returns, the nurse pops his head in and starts talking to me 100 miles an hour, without even introducing himself or telling me who he is. When I demand that info, he says his name is Jessie, and starts going through the standard “what meds are you on, what’s your birthdate,” etc line of questioning. When I say I’m on birth control only, he starts to lecture me about the dangers of smoking while on birth control pills. At this point, I am *this close* to exploding. I say “I don’t smoke.” hoping that will just him up, since really, my birth control and heart health aren’t really at the top of the list of concerns right now. He continues to say that some people think that as long as they don’t smoke cigarettes, they’re fine, and they smoke other things, at which point I interrupt again “I. Don’t. Smoke.” Blabber mouth just sits there are starts talking about who the fuck knows what, and wants to know what the status is of my injury. I said I don’t know, I’d like to find out. SO he wants me to tell him what happened. Excuse me, but that’s all in the records. Please read it. I need pain meds.

I ask him for pain meds, and he says he has to get permission to give them to me (Um, I’ve been receiving them for the last 10 hours!) I ask him for water and he says he has to get permission for that too. He takes about 5 times as many words necessary to explain both these points, and then disappears. Boyfriend returns, and I tell him the whole story.

Boyfriend beeps for assistance, and tells the disembodied voice coming from the wall that we want pain meds. We wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, the Ortho team comes in, and explains what is going on with the back – broken scapula, sling and PT, come back in a week. Oh, and more poking and prodding, without pain meds, and accidentally uncovering parts of my body that I prefer to keep private, since my jersey and sports bra were cut off. The blabbermouth nurse pokes his head in, see the ortho team, and scoots out before we can ask for pain control.

The ortho team leaves, and I’m still sitting there, in pain. Boyfriend presses the call button again, and we AGAIN ask for pain control. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, Nurse Jessie the Motormouth comes back, as if he is surprised that we need something. Boyfriend asks him for 1) pain meds and 2) what is going on, since we’re going on 13 hours in the ER. Nurse Jessie says “Well, lets have BlueRoses here update us all so we are on the same page!”

And I fucking lost it. I started yelling at the nurse, telling him that I’d had enough of his condescending tone, his excuses on why I couldn’t have anything (apparently he’s “busy”) and that I needed pain medication NOW, and I needed to know NOW when I was going home. I was tired of hearing him talking, and that I was not some idiot, as I’d been a patient advocate before, and knew when I was getting mistreated and getting the run around. He needed to stop talking, and start doing.

Suddenly, we had Mr. Obsequious bowing and scraping and walking on eggshells. He STILL talked too much, and complained that he was so busy, and I said “I don’t care. Do your job.”

I really hate being the mean person, but seriously, I’d had enough. I got admitted to the ER around 1:30 pm, at it was 3:30 am, and still NOTHING was being done.

After the yelling, he did get everything together – ice, meds, a sling, papers for discharge, the actual doctor came in and talked to me, and I finally got released at 5 am. And at 5 am, after almost 16 hours in the ER, I *WALKED* out of the hospital. Aren’t they supposed to put you in a wheel chair to your car, for safety’s sake?

The night scene at the hospital was a fucking trip, too. Apparently everyone else there was a criminal, and they were chained to their beds, with a police officer or sheriff sitting watch in the halls. Yes, the chatty nurse had a lot on his plate, but you know what? It’s his job. I sat there for 4 hours listening to some hobo in another room yelling “Can I get some water please?” over and over and over. FOR FOUR HOURS. I heard swearing and cussing and people being physically restrained. I get that it’s a hard job, and there’s no way in hell I’d do it. I worked in a home for disturbed youth for all of 6 weeks and then quit, because that’s just not my bag. But I’ve been a patient advocate as well as a patient, and I have seen good nurses, really good nurses, and really really terrible ones. And the Denver Health night shift was terrible.

I don’t plan on getting hurt again, but if I do, I’m going to ask to go to a private hospital. I don’t care if it’s Catholic or Mormon or Jewish, or run by Scientology people, as long as they don’t fucking treat me like I’m one of the criminals they pulled in off the street. Denver Health? Never, ever again. No fucking way.


This Post was edited July 27, 3:02 PM to add:
Denver Health Patient Advocates DID follow up with me on this, and are working to make things right. Final resolution will be written up in a later blog post and linked here.


4 thoughts on “Inside the ER – Denver Health, I’ve got half a mind to file a formal complaint

  1. Oh man, I’m soooo sorry you got such horrible treatment. Please file a formal complaint– I assure you the chief administrator or whoever would love to know!

  2. I am sorry that we did not meet your expectations and would like to talk with you further about your experience. Please call me at 303 602 2942 – I was hoping to talk with you about your care. I realize that not all of the problems were with the ER, however I can help and want to help – S

    • Thank you for your comment. I will be calling tomorrow around 9 am, as I realize it is probably past your business hours now.

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