SHANNON grandmother Mariea Marley spent 55 hours on a trolley at UHL recently and this week she says she would be very reluctant to go to A&E in the future.
Mariea’s only daughter Michelle lives near her two parents and she brought her mother to hospital, after having been told to go in at a doctor’s appointment. “She went in on Saturday after being down at ShannonDoc, her blood pressure was a bit up from this cough she had. I was a bit concerned because it was going on a while.
“My mother is a dialysis patient, so she’d pick up things, and it seemed to me to be an infection, it was more than a cough or a cold. She had numerous antibiotics and steroids since Christmas and they weren’t clearing it.”
Initially things didn’t look too bad at A & E. “It didn’t seem to be too manic at the time. There were a few in front of us, which was fine. She saw the triage nurse and was put on a trolley in a corridor in A&E which we expected for a while.”
But it was much more than a short wait. “She was on the trolley from 4pm on the Saturday evening of the Bank Holiday weekend, and she didn’t get into a ward onto a bed until 11pm on Monday night, 55 hours. Both of my parents have had experiences in the past in A&E, there have been long waits and it’s really hard to go home when your parent is in that situation. But there was no one to turn to at all. The nurses were doing their best and there didn’t seem to be a lot of them there either. The PALS service, they go on your behalf and give a bit of support to the family. But they only work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. I raised that with them, that maybe they should extend that to the weekends.
“It was like the place just shut down for the weekend. People don’t just get sick from Monday to Friday. We have such an ageing population that it’s scary. My parents are now terrified to go to A&E and I hate that, because we need to depend on A&E.”
There was very little concern shown for a sick, elderly woman who needed help. “I just felt like Mam was nobody in there. People were going up and down doing their work, there were people in the ward and Mam was just left on a trolley. ”
Mariea was kept in hospital and only got home last weekend. “She still has a bit of a cough but she came home with inhalers and everything.”
Michelle said her mother ended up with sores from her time on the trolley, and couldn’t sleep there. “That’s very dangerous for a dialysis patient, because they’re so fatigued anyway.”
She has been bringing her parents to hospital for many years, and says there has never been any sign of things getting better. “Dad was sick in 2003, he was flown home from Lanzarote at the time, and there hasn’t been any improvement since.”
The gap between what she hoped for when they arrived at the hospital and what actually happened was very stark, and she says improvement is badly needed. “I hoped at the start that she might have a bed by the night time if possible. I didn’t say it, or ask, I just kind of went with it. But on Sunday morning there was no one to ask.
“There’s a lovely nurse called Joan who Mam knows from going in and out over the years, Joan kept apologising and I said sure it’s not your fault, it doesn’t lie with one person, it’s a management issue. I just don’t know when there will be change. I don’t want it to be a case where my daughter (now three years old) is coming to see me on a trolley for 55 hours.
“My biggest fear is that my Mam or Dad would be seen as a statistic and would die on a trolley. They wouldn’t be the first.”
Michelle does feel the front line staff do provide very good care, when services can finally be accessed. “Once you are in you get great care, I do think the professionals in there are very good and we’ve had very good experiences with them.”
Speaking about her 55 hour wait, Mariea said, “It was frightening. There were people bumping off it (the trolley), you’d be afraid to open your mouth even to ask for a drink of water. There was nobody I could turn to.
“It’d bring a tear to your eye that at this stage of our life, this is what we’re going to get from here on out.”
While going to A&E proved an ordeal, she feels she does get good care there, once it can be accessed. “Once I got to my own doctor, Professor Stack, you couldn’t stress enough the kindness and goodness of him, over the years. He’s first class.”
Mariea said that some other people waiting on trolleys were treated very poorly, especially one elderly woman who certain members of staff were very rude towards. “”A poor old lady who is still on my mind, to see the way she was treated was inhumane. She was sitting on the bed and she wanted to rest back a bit. She asked two helpers would they assist her, they said no, they’re not supposed to handle you at all, lie down there and keep quiet, there’s a lot of people waiting. She asked why would you talk to me like that, he said because I can talk to you like that, there was a girl with him urging him on. She said I’ve a broken neck and I need help. He said you’ll get the help when someone is ready to come to you. She said would you give me my phone till I ring my daughter, but they wouldn’t.
“She needed a bit of help and they refused her and degraded her. That’s someone’s Mammy and someone’s Granny.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.