Hospitals are supposed to have a protocol in place for sickle cell patients especially with non-specialist nurses.  Two years after Samantha’s horrible experience at the National hospital, she and her daughter found that such protocols were still not being followed. This time it was at a different hospital.

My mum was alone at home when she had a sickle cell crisis in her chest. An ambulance was called and she was taken to a hospital, in Romford. I got the call and rushed to be by her side. When I got there I was surprised to find her in A&E. My mum had told the paramedics about her sickle cell but they decided she had a chest infection.

My mum told me that in the ambulance, paramedics had said: “… do you want to go to the hospital or not? Usually, we would just tell you to go to your GP. But because it’s 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, with no GP open we can take you to the hospital.”

The message that my mum was in a sickle cell crisis had not been received by anyone who came into first contact with my mum at A & E. In total, we waited for five hours before the first pain killing medication was given.

It was ridiculous.  Whilst waiting in A&E I repeatedly went to the desk asking: “what is happening? Why are we not being seen too?” My mum was worsening and her crisis escalated, and I called for help.

Finally a male doctor came and told us he will be with us in a minute. 30 minutes later the doctor returned and took my mum for an X-ray scan. I left at this point to collect some things for my mum. By the time I came back, my mum was completely in crisis. I don’t know where that doctor disappeared to. She was in severe pain. I was cradling her at this point.

Two hours passed. Another doctor came – he had just started his shift, and with a concerned look on his face, he asked: “What’s going on here?”

I said: “I need to speak to someone that knows about sickle cell,”

The doctor said: “I know a thing or two about sickle cell.”

I explained that my mum was in crisis and that we hadn’t been seen to. The doctor instructs a nurse to attend to my mum. “She needs oxygen and she needs pain relief NOW!”

My mum was moved to A & E major, put in a cubicle and left to wait again.  Fifteen minutes passed. There was a nurse outside our cubicle and I asked him: “Do you know who is supposed to be looking after my mum?”

He looked up and said “I am supposed to be looking after her.”

I said: “Well, we’ve been waiting a very long time. My mum is in crisis, we need help now.”

The nurse looked offended. “I take instructions from the doctor.”

Distressed, I said: “Ok that’s fine, could you get that instruction please? My mum really needs pain relief.”

Nurse: “Like I said, I take instructions from the doctor.”

I went to the desk and demanded for a doctor. The young man at the desk asked for my mother’s name. He told me that the computer system showed that my mum had been seen to. I was shocked. The young man apologised and assured me that my mum would be seen to.

45 minutes later, and the first doctor we met appeared again.  He came into our cubicle and said to mum: “How long have you had sickle cell for?” This is the doctor that was going to treat my mum and he asked her such a question. I was stunned. Sickle cell is genetic, a person is born with it.

Still, without pain relief, mum was in full blown crisis and the doctor continued to ask question after question. I was starting to think that he didn’t know what he was dealing with. He then instructed the same nurse I had previously spoken to, to attend to my mum. His response? “Well, I’ve got a lot of things to.”

I understood that he was busy, as all doctors and nurses are, but my mum did not need to hear him say that in front of her. I had to ask when the catheter (a medical device inserted into the body to treat diseases or perform a surgical procedure), was going to be put in.  When he did finally come, my mum asked him to place the needle because she knows where her good veins are. The nurse wouldn’t listen. Instead he insisted it went where he wanted it to go. He struggled to find a vein and did a bad job. My mum’s hand was inflamed like a balloon.  There was blood everywhere. It was a mess.

Instead of apologising he blamed the vein, gave up and aggressively said: “I’m going to get someone else to do this.” so we had to wait again. 30 mins later, my mum had her catheter put in but there was something wrong. It didn’t contain any fluid. It now took a new doctor to come and attach the pain relief, water and oxygen – all that should have been delivered to my mum upon arrival.

The new doctor authorised specific drugs to be given to my mum. She said: “When you need more, call by pressing the buzzer.” And she left.

The drugs didn’t kill the pain so 45 minutes later I called for the medication and the same nurse who messed up the catheter returned. He behaved like he didn’t want to bring the medication. He was annoyed and said: “You don’t need it.”

I told him “Yes she does and we got authorisation from the doctor” and he told us he’s not authorised to give it. I told him to call the doctor back. He went and came back, without the doctor, but with medication. He hadn’t bothered to read the notes which would have told him that the doctor had authorised the medication. The medication he came back with wasn’t what the doctor had prescribed – instead it was liquid Add to dictionary. It did the job but the nurse had a very poor attitude. It was as if he was thinking that we should be grateful for this favour he did for us, and it got worse.

To be continued…

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