A Letter I wrote to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA pertaining to a recent visit:
To Whomever It May Concern,
On Wednesday August 14th I went into surgery at Berkshire Medical Center for a routine adult tonsillectomy that I was having performed at the age of twenty-four. The surgery went well and my first five days post-op went even better with minimal pain and very limited issues. I knew going into my first surgery that there may be complications due to my age; that was a given. My doctor had fully prepared me for this. What I was not prepared for was what happened on my sixth day post-op at 11:30PM. I was chewing on soft food and found myself beginning to bleed. Initially I chocked it up to the usual amount of bleeding that comes from the second stage of healing after a procedure of this nature. When that bleeding turned into fitful coughing, however, I decided to be proactive and wake my mother up to take me to the emergency room.
By 12:00AM on Tuesday August 20th I arrived at the emergency room at Berkshire Medical Center with an ice pack on my neck and bleeding in my throat. There were only a couple other people in the waiting room and the place looked deserted. We waited no more than ten minutes to be admitted and then close to another fifteen to be taken into an actual room. While we initially waited my bleeding was more or less under control with infrequent coughs and a small bucket given to me by the nurse at the counter. Within fifteen minutes of waiting in our room the bucket was needed. My coughing increased ten-fold and it didn’t take much time at all before the small bucket and my clothes were stained red. From 12:30 to 1:30 my mother and I waited patiently in our curtained room, but nobody came.
We checked in a few times with nurses that walked by and we were assured that a doctor would be in ‘soon.’ By 1:30 the coughing and bleeding reached a terrifying point and I decided to actively seek help. I walked up to one of the nurses nearest my room, shoved my small bucket of blood in her direction, and demanded a doctor because I clearly wasn’t getting any better. Within ten minutes I was moved to a trauma room and attended to by several people; many of the same people who I previously saw standing around doing nothing through the small opening in the curtain in the hour that I waited. By 3:00AM I was seen by a doctor and continually monitored as I lost more and more blood. While I was reassured that it was a ‘small amount,’ to someone who has never been in that type of situation before, several buckets of blood is no ‘small amount.’
The blood began pooling in my throat and clotting, decreasing my airway and increasing the need to cough to clear it. The doctor on call decided that I would need a second surgery and had the staff call in a surgical team, which I was forced to wait another two or more hours for. By 5:00AM, nearly six hours after the bleeding began, I was taken into surgery.
In the five hours that I was at the emergency room I counted more security guards than I did nurses or doctors; many of whom were busier on their cell phones than doing their actual jobs. In that five hour span only one person on staff actively sought help for me and was told it would be a while before being dismissed. In that five hours I went through four small buckets, a pair of shoes, a shirt, and two hospital beds, all of which were covered in my blood. In that five hours I never once felt like my needs as a patient were being adequately addressed.
The staff was nearly non-existent, overtly dismissive, and most likely working within the constraints of a financially strapped institution. Not only do I believe that there were few people on staff to properly handle the emergent cases present that night, but I wonder what would have happened had I come in in a worse condition than I had; perhaps hemorrhaging. Would I have bled out because of negligent care? Would I no longer be here because the proper staff needed to be called in to address my needs?
There is no doubt in my mind that if had I not taken an active role in having my needs met as a patient, that I wouldn’t be here today to talk about it. While many of you may paint this as overdramatic, think to yourselves what might have happened if I was there alone in that room with nobody checking in on me for over an hour while I was bleeding incessantly. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees a problem with this.
Berkshire Medical Center, while it may be an institution that deems itself one of learning and development, has quite a deal to learn itself about patient care, patient retention, and adequate medical practices. Until then I worry for those of us who need care at this institution; I worry for my family, my friends, and for myself. I even worry for this community.
Christopher M. Berry
I ask that every one of you please share this on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site; even those of you who don’t live in my immediate area. It would mean a great deal to me. It was a horrible experience and very reflective of patient care in my area. And as always thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry