"I was admitted via A&E on July 21st..."

About: University Hospital Lewisham

What I liked

I was admitted via A&E on July 21st with what turned out to appendicitis. I got through A&E very quickly with a helpful receptionist and a triage nurse who quickly realised that I needed urgent attention. I would guess that from first registering to being on a hospital bed and being treated by an A&E doctor took less than half an hour. They quickly diagnosed appendicitis and within an hour, I had a consultation with a member of the surgery team, who told me I would need to be operated on later that afternoon, which is exactly what happened.

The ward I was on to recover was well run and the nurses were really good. One nurse on the Cedar ward was particularly impressive, especially in the amount of time he spent trying to teach the student nurses. However, I felt the standard of teaching was inconsistent across different wards, because the first ward I was on was not so strong on teaching the student nurses.

The ward facilities were very new, clean and modern. A&E was a little antiquated by comparison, but the care was very good there, so I didn't mind.

What could be improved

The operation went ahead that evening but it turned out to be more complicated than they first thought as my appendix had burst and gone gangrenous. This is where the problems started. Instead of the operation taking about an hour, it took 3 hours, during which time no one told my husband what was going on. Eventually someone told him I was in recovery, but he had a very upsetting very few hours because no one would tell him what was going on. He was crawling the walls with worry at this point.

The next issue happened during recovery and it was deeply upsetting. When I first came around, I was in a lot of pain. I tried to get the nurses attention, but I could hardly move. I could see that I was the only person in the recovery unit. The nurse was chatting on the phone at her counter and just told me to press the morphine pump, however it mustn't have been working because I was still in agony (I'm not sure I had the strength to press it properly either). I tried to get her attention again and she just kept jabbering on the phone - I couldn't believe it and there was nothing I could do to get her attention. I must have passed out at this point because when I next came round, a different nurse was standing over me saying that the pump wasn't working and I must be in a lot of pain or have a very high pain threshold. The second nurse fixed the pump and the pain started to go down.

Finally, when it came to my dressing being changed. the nurses had to chase my surgeon's number 2 for 24 hours before he came to change my dressing. It didn't particuarly matter in the end, but it was stressful at the time, because the head surgeon had told me that the dressing had to be changed within 48 hours of surgery - it ended up being 72 hours or so later.

Anything else?

Generally speaking the care and facilities were very good. However, I don't think I will ever forget that feeling of complete helplessness and panic over the recovery nurse ignoring me and carrying on chatting to her friend, when I was in excrutiating pain. I also wish they could improve their communications to family and relatives.

Story from NHS Choices

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