"My four day stay in hospital was a nightmare"

About: Royal Derby Hospital / General surgery

(as the patient),

I had a hysterectomy recently. I feel shocked at the way I was treated.

I arrived at 8am and I was walked down to theatre about 10am. Being prepared for theatre, the 2 female staff were having difficulty finding a vein, they were slapping and squeezing my arm and this made me feel like the atmosphere was tense. I did not feel like anybody tried to put me at ease or spoke to me other than to ask my name, date of birth and if I was allergic to anything.

Back on the ward I was told to press the button in my right hand for morphine if I was in pain. My mouth was incredibly dry. I asked for water. A nurse put a straw in my mouth, I had 2 sips.

Later, again I asked for water and a young lady in a white tunic held out a cup for me but I was laid flat and couldn’t reach out for it so she started elevating the top half of my bed which caused me intense abdominal pain and I begged her to put it back down. She came round the bed, placed the cup of water in my hand and walked away. I helplessly tried to lift my head to it but ended up pouring it all down my neck.

I had not been given a button to call the nurse so I tried to call out for someone to help me.

The pain was incredible and I was very disorientated. The morphine dispenser kept beeping and flashing red. I was told I had to keep my arm straight when I pressed the button. I had a pulse monitor on my right hand as well as the morphine button and a blood pressure belt on my right arm. The morphine was going into my left arm. I had a catheter bag and an oxygen mask.

As the machine continued to beep, I felt like the nurse got increasingly frustrated with me for bending my arm and kept forcing it straight which hurt. She said to me that the tube hadn’t been put in right and if I moved it, it prevented the morphine going into my arm as the tube bent. More than once she said to me she was going to take it out if it kept happening. I thought yeah, good idea, it’s not my fault it hasn’t been put in right. My back was really itchy and as I couldn’t really move either of my hands far, I rubbed it against the sheets. I managed to pick up my phone and there were several messages from friends asking if I was ok. I saw it was after 7 so replied back 'am ok, but very dozy'.

I tried to concentrate on keeping my arm straight but my coordination was all over the place and I was now itching like crazy from my head to my legs and couldn’t stop myself from scratching. After this I felt like the nurse lost her patience with me as she had to keep pressing the reset button so she took the tube from my arm and reinserted it into the back of my left hand near my knuckle.

I use hearing aids and the right one beeped to let me know the battery had run out. The left one was whistling against the pillows so I took them out and reached over, leaving them on the table. I was relieved the problem of the machine had been sorted and thought I might get some sleep. The itching got worse and I was frantically scratching my back and rubbing my legs together. It was driving me crazy and I asked the nurse why I was itching. She said it was the morphine. I was sweating and felt my back sticking to a plastic sheet. Unfortunately I must have caught the tube in my hand as it began to bleed. I know felt like the nurse seemed really annoyed with me and then snatched it out of my hand spraying herself and the machine with blood. She tied the tube around the machine and in my opinion angrily said to me no more pain killer for you and left.

I was left for nearly 3 hours crying in pain, still with no call button. Eventually a man with a very soothing, sympathetic voice came in and said he was replacing the tube in my right hand. He said it would take a while for the morphine to get back in my system so I was to keep pressing the button. I eventually became very drowsy but was incredibly itchy. I hoped I would just sleep through it but a nurse kept coming in and waking me up by slapping my hand. I couldn’t understand why she kept waking me as the blood pressure monitor was set automatically but she kept asking me questions like why I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids. I told her it was the middle of the night and I was trying to sleep, then I said one of the batteries was gone and I couldn’t reach to get a new one. Then I reached out and showed her I couldn’t even reach the hearing aids as the previous nurse had moved the table away. At this point the nurse didn’t offer to get them for me.

She then asked where my oxygen mask was and I said the previous nurse had taken it away hours ago because the elastic had come off one side. I was woken again by her snapping a replacement onto my face. When the new shift of nurses came on the next morning I realised she hadn’t connected the mask to the oxygen. I felt so relieved to see the nurses in the morning as they were smiling and cheerful. I told them I’d had a bad night, no sleep and couldn’t stop itching. One of them brought me an antihistamine tablet for which I was really grateful. There was blood all over my sheets from the tube being torn from my hand and also where I had gauged out my skin (not feeling it because of the morphine). A few days later at home I looked in a mirror and I thought I looked like I’d been attacked by a wild animal. The scabs on my back lasted 2 weeks.

Why did it take 12 hours for someone to give me an antihistamine?

I felt like I was completely out of it on the morphine when a physiotherapist came to see me to talk about exercises. A doctor came in 2 minutes later and started talking over her. I could hear them having a little argument about which one was going to leave. The physio saying she was there first and I could hear the doctor saying “well I’m a doctor.” I actually can’t remember which one stayed, all I remember is that I couldn’t focus on the physio or concentrate on what she was saying as my eyes kept closing. I said I was sorry but so tired. She left me some leaflets. I don’t even remember a word the doctor said to me except that they were sending me home on Sunday. I also remember that the doctor seemed offended that I asked her to slow down as I wear hearing aids and her accent was very strong.

Why didn’t either of them visit me when I had been taken off the morphine? I believe both their visits were a waste of time and yet I assume they probably had important information for me?

I drifted in and out of sleep most of Friday but when the two other ladies were brought lunch I asked if I could have something as I was starving. I was offered a sandwich. I hadn’t eaten for 36 hours. I wasn’t offered anything else for another 24 hours so I asked again for some food. I thought the meal that arrived was shriveled and dried up and I couldn’t eat it. I wasn’t offered anything else. The same thing happened at tea time. Sunday morning I had 2 slices of toast and got back into bed. The nurse asked me if I was getting up and I said I felt pretty poorly and couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed. A doctor came to see me and I said I felt very weak and in a lot of pain. He asked if I was eating and drinking. I told him I’d only had 2 slices of toast and one sandwich in 4 days and apologised but said the meals from Saturday were both disgusting. He said he couldn’t eat the food there either and asked if anyone could bring me something in to eat. My friend brought me a meal in Sunday evening. I felt much better on Monday morning for having food inside me and got up and showered. I was given medication to take for ten days. I didn’t notice till too late that they had miscalculated by giving me 14 tablets to take 3 times a day for 10 days and also 28 of the painkillers to take 2, four times a days for 10 days. I ran out of both after 5 and had to endure 3 days without until I could get a doctor to visit with a prescription.

I found my stay at The Royal Derby very traumatic. The day after I came home when I thought about it I sobbed. Not sure if it was shock or relief to be out of there. Before I went in I had been told I would be kept in for 7 days as I had no adult at home to look after me yet they almost sent me home after 3 days. As it was I came home after 4 and spent a week entirely by myself but I think it was better than being at that hospital. I have to have an operation for a stomach hernia in September but I don’t want to go to this hospital again.

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