Seeing Red: A Look At Emergent Care

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.

Sincerely Yours,
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

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About C.M. Berry

I'm an aspiring author, blogger, and poet fluent in sarcasm, profanity, and dark humor. I have something to say about everything and whether you love me or hate me, you'll always come back for more.
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132 Responses to Seeing Red: A Look At Emergent Care

  1. Richard Lyon says:

    R Lyon Once I went to the ER with sever heart palpatations and was made to wait over half hour, now usually they take you right in and hook you up to an EKG machine, finally I told my daughter to ask the check in nurse if they don’t take me right in I’am going to call an ambulance! How would have that looked!!

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      I actually went to the ER back in April for severe chest pains, which I was concerned about because I have had some heart issues in the past even at my young age. There is also a history of heart failure in my family. I was immediately taken in and hooked up to a machine. Although, I was seen pretty quickly in that instance, I was treated like an addict because they never found the cause and thought that I was making it up. Sadly, I think a great many people in this area have ruined the trust that many of the ER staff have in its patients. It saddens me that you had to experience this. I’m hoping everything worked out for you, though!

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  2. I don’t doubt your experience for a minute,and it more than bears looking into. However, the times that I have had to visit the ER with my children and my mother, care was nothing short of professional, prompt, attentive, and thorough. We were seen promptly in accordance with the severity of each situation. ( The possible kidney infection of a cancer patient was taken in faster than a cut knee that potentially needed stitches.) We were listened to, and appropriate care administered. Specialists were called in within the hour as needed. In a couple of cases, we received follow up calls the following day to see how the patient was. I wonder if at least a part of the problem might be that the new residents recently started? They come in, fresh and newly minted, every July.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      Anne, I’m happy to hear that you’ve received good care there. It is heartening to know that some good stories come from our experiences at BMC in addition to the bad. From what I’m gathering from staff and those who have written to me, the root of my problem lies in the fact that I arrived at the worst possible time: shift change, where staffing is not ideal and care is not at its best. I’m hoping that with some attention and good discussion both inside and outside of BMC that this can be corrected so that nobody’s care is compromised as a result. Thank you for your comment!

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  3. Cheri says:

    Mr, Berry, I am extremely happy to hear that everything turned out fine after your horrible ordeal. It is sad that BMC is the only hospital that we have in the area. I had 11 surgeries in less than a year period. Three of them I was admitted through the Emergency Room. I cannot say enough about the care that I received at our hospital, I was in the hospital for 11 days so believe me I experienced it all. One of the surgeries was done at Baystate and I can guarantee that I would never return to that hospital for any reason. Unfortunately, because we live near and use BMC we hear all of the horror stories about that hospital, if we lived near Baystate, Boston, or any other state we would hear horror stories about those hospitals. BMC really needs to do more to upgrade their doctors and staff in the ER instead of spending millions of dollars to renovate the waiting area, but the doctors and nurses who work in the hospital for the most part put their heart and soul into their jobs. Once you start dealing with humans you get errors and different personalities. Hopefully, you won’t but if you ever have to return to the hospital, I wish you a much better experience. Be well and continue to try to get the errors changed.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      Thank you, Cheri. All I want out of all of this, despite what some people may think, is to improve what we have. This is our community hospital and we need to be able to rely on it in times of crisis. I don’t have anything against any individuals and a great many people at BMC do exceptional work. While I have heard an astounding number of horror stories, I have heard some good stories as well. I just hope that at some point they even out or the scales tip so that I hear more good things than bad. The only way to change things is to get involved and I just hope that this encourages more people to do so.

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  4. Deb says:

    Chris, I am so sorry to hear of your horrible experience. I am glad you are OK and also that you took matters into your own hands to get the attention that was so needed. In this day where the insurance companies run what sort of care we’re give, that is unfortunately the norm. I would suggest you go public to one of the Albany TV stations. I live in the Metrowest Boston area and this type of thing is always on our FOX news. There is also an agency that nominates a hospital to the “Top” whatever in the state. You should do some research online and go directly to them – there is also an accreditation group that audits several times a year to decide if they will maintain a facility’s accreditation or not. They should be notified as well.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      I actually recently had a conversation with a nurse about how insurance companies run our care now in the sense that care is often dictated by affordability. Many health professionals have their hands tied by these companies and there is nothing that can be done.

      Also on a side note: I have no respect for Fox News. It’s history has proven it to be a joke and nothing more.

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  5. Amanda says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m not surprised by any means. I have many horror stories of BMC. I had an illness that required many trips to the ER and admissions inpatient. One ER trip that I will never forget is when I went to the ER with a funny feeling in my chest. Granted I was about 25 at the time, most would chalk it up to be heart burn or something, which is understandable. The thing is, I went in there saying my potassium level was low. My history speeaks for itself, as they have treated my low potassium levels on many occasions, and would have reason to believe it. It wasn’t my first dance with extremely low potassium, and trust me, I know how the pain feels from it. The doctor insisted that I was wrong. When my blood work came back my potassium was at a lethal level. In the past I was given IV potassium and admitted to the heart unit or the general medical floor. This time the overnight doctor, old lady, gave me 8 huge pills to swallow and sent me home. Because I had no food in my stomach, due to sitting in the ER unattended for hours, my stomach rejected the pills. As a result my potassium levels dropped and I ended up back in the ER the following day, only to be admitted with a newly developed heart arrythmia, atriel fibrilation. I extremely dislike the ER at this hospital.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      Oh wow. I’ve actually been to the ER for chest pains before and nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I was treated like I was making the entire thing up and sent home. Luckily within two days the pain went away, but those two days were very scary. Especially because I have a history of minor heart issues and my father and grandfather suffered from severe heart problems at relatively young ages.

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  6. After reading this letter, I am also scared for anyone in this situation. While I understand that people may be hurt more seriously than others, there is still a right to patients to earn proper care. My mother recently underwent surgery at BMC. After her recovery phase was over, she suffered severe bleeding, also in the throat and nasal cavity. She was rushed, by ambulance, three times in one day. BMC kept sending her home. After her third and final time arriving by ambulance, they admitted her to a critical unit where she was under 24 hour watch. While we were in the ER, I asked several times for a nurse to help me control the bleeding. I was met with responses such as – “Let me get your nurse” or “The doctor will be in shortly.” When no one showed up, I went into the cabinets and helped myself to buckets, towels, gauze and gloves. I essentially became my mother’s nurse. When someone did enter 45 minutes later, I was chastised for assisting my mother and helping myself to supplies. What else was I suppose to do? Three months later, my mother’s primary physician informed her that her blood levels were still low enough to qualify her for a transfusion. Not only did BMC not take my mother’s post surgical trauma seriously, they failed to give her a necessary blood transfusion. She spent 5 days admitted to that hospital, where I constantly had to wipe dried blood off of her face, every time that I visited her. While I understand that this may not be part of their job, it still makes family members feel like their loved ones are being cared for.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      I think if I had been in your situation I would have done the same thing. It’s a sad reality to think that sometimes we have to do these things in order to either care for those we love or receive the care that we ourselves need. Thank you for sharing your story!

      Like

  7. Kat Lockridge says:

    I had the very similar
    experience there four years ago. Nothing has changed it seems. After 4 hours waiting in a cubby in the ER I removed my own IV, got dressed, and went home. No one ever called me to see if I was okay. I think you could die there and they might notice once you started to stink up the place.

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      Kat, I’m sorry to hear that you had a similar experience. It seems like most of the people who have read and responded to this have had bad experiences. That may just be because people are more likely report bad experiences than good ones, though. Either way, the number of negative experiences is still alarming.

      Like

  8. rex says:

    id like to hear the other side first

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    • C.M. Berry says:

      If I could provide you with that information I would. I cannot speak for the hospital, though. The matter is still being “investigated” since my meeting last week with two members of the hospital staff. All I can provide you with is my first hand experience of that night. I think for all intents and purposes, though, I have been fair in every way I can be. I’ve even praised BMC directly for the care I received beyond the ER.

      Like

  9. DC says:

    I used to live in this area and have extended family living there now. T
    his is more than a little concerning. Hope you are healing well. Kudos to you for speaking up!

    Like

  10. Miss T says:

    Hi Chris….This is “T”. I commend you for your communication. We do the best we can to inform and relay facts and inadequacies. You have suffered disrespect and lack of adequate care. My family and I familiar with your experience and angst. As you know my daughter Miss C. has suffered a disabling medical illness for the past 5 years. She suffers a bowel obstruction that no one can treat…..including Boston. She suffers major gynecological disorders….BMC know all about this. At a young age they believe she should have a hysterectomy. The ONLY positive I can provide is that Miss C. is treated quickly and with great care by those physicians and RN’s WHO ARE VERY FAMILIAR WITH HER CONDITION AND PAIN.. Since 2008 Miss C. has been admitted to the E.R. on over 387 occasions. I am certain that those out there reading this know Miss C. You must contact patient care advocate, Christa Melillo and you must contact Dr. Mark Pettus a more than well respected physician who recently returned to BMC to accept a position in the Wellness Care Program. Dr. Pettus was the one and only physician who told Miss C. that she has a valid, chronic, severe and painful illness. Because of the inadequacies of former PCP’s and Gastros, it was too late to treat Miss C. She and we suffer night and day and never know when an episode or seizure will strike followed by yet another visit to the BMC E.R. Keep fighting the good fight my dear friend. Signed…….Miss C., Miss T and Gram.

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  11. I suffered a back injury and lost feeling in my right leg. Worst pain of my life. When I was in the ER and they were taken an x-ray, one of the nurses out right called me a liar cause she wanted me to move the leg I couldn’t feel (or move). And, when another nurse came to help me, she was told not to by the lady now raising her voice at me for not doing it on my own. . My follow up resulted in this…. The doctor came in, looked (didn’t touch) at my upper back for literally 10 seconds and said he didn’t see anything wrong. I explained to him it was my lower back and I still had no feeling in my right leg, he then exited the room. I ended up with a prescription for over the counter pain meds.
    Turned out to be a pinched nerve and I ended up using a wheelchair for a few months; till I forced my self able to walk again… no help from the doctors or professional physical therapists.

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  12. Leah Wetherell says:

    I am so glad you posted your story! I had a similar experience 3 years ago with an undiagnosed appendicitis that resulted in removing a portion of my intestinal tract, a 6 day hospital stay, and a nasty scar, for a procedure that is relatively common and can be done through laparoscopic surgery. I was given a heavy pain medication throughout the night. I went into the ER at 11:00 with lower right hand quadrant pain and was not seen by a doctor till 5am when they decided I needed a c-scan. Even my surgery was postponed until 2 in the afternoon, at which time my inside were a mess. I am thankful for the angel watching out for me, the skillful hands of the surgeon who was left to repair the damage the was done, and the surgical staff who took incredible care of me after. I, like you, want nothing more than for this to never happen again to anyone. Negligent care is unacceptable and there needs to be more awareness brought to this topic. Thank you again!

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad everything turned out okay for you. I’m unsure if my story had any real impact on the way BMC handles things, but I can only hope that it did some good somewhere along the way.

      Like

  13. I have no faith in BMC , my late husband hated it there and would demand to be sent to Baystate. I myself am very outspoken , I remember when I had to walk out and ask if they were going to put his oxygen back on before he died. It is a learning facility and is run poorly.
    Sorry for your experience there, it is a scary place.

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband. I, like you, can be very outspoken, especially when it comes to my own care or the care of a loved one. In today’s world, we need more people who are willing to advocate for themselves and for those who aren’t able. That’s why I made myself heard not only while I was there, but even after. I applaud and thank you for doing the same.

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  14. Jo says:

    Is there a Medical Board that these important & possible life threating situations be investigated & handled accordingly. If not I would start some type of a petition & get it to the Atty General or someone with authority in the state. This is of great concern for many

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      Thank you for your comment. To answer your question, I am not sure. I spoke to hospital administrators at the time, but the consecutive meetings they tried to schedule with me kept conflicting with my schedule (and they, in my opinion, weren’t as flexible as they could have been), which prevented any actionable outcomes. I ended up moving out of the area not too long after my surgery so it unfortunately became difficult for me to pursue the issue further. I had to drop it to focus on the move, job search, etc. Had I had the time, patience, and energy to do anything more at the time, I would have.

      Like

  15. Sarah says:

    Almost two years ago, I attempted suicide by cutting my arm really deep, and I was bleeding. Even passed out twice because of the blood loss. I was rushed to the hospital, where they quickly put a bandage over my arm, and then had some security guard outside of my door watching me to make sure I wasn’t going to do anything bad to myself. I waited 3 hours in there, with a bleeding arm, and my entire family who didn’t know. My sister was at her boyfriend’s, and my mother was in the nursing home, so nobody was home to know what happened. I couldn’t contact anyone either because I didn’t have a cell-phone and nobody would let me use the phone. I waited and finally after the 3 hours, the guy who gives stitches came in, looked at it, and said he’d be right back. Then I had to wait another hour and a half, watching tv, and watching nurses stand around. He finally came back in, and stitched up my arm, and then my boyfriend walked into the room and hugged me. They let me go home with him, but he had to wait in the waiting room for over 4 hours for me, because they wouldn’t let him come back there with me….even though it would have calmed me down. I was hysterical, crying, panicking, and getting impatient, and nobody helped me out. I was left for 4 hours alone, didn’t even know my boyfriend was there. Didn’t know how I’d get home, or what I’d do. Didn’t seem very professional at all. In my opinion.

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I imagine that it wasn’t easy to do. It astounds me that they wouldn’t let your boyfriend into see you during that entire time. They didn’t even question my mother coming into the triage area with me. Even if there were possible rules in place about only allowing direct family in, this seems like one of those situations where those rules needs to be broken. I’m sorry you had a terrible experience (like so many others), but I hope you’re on the mend now. I also hope that by sharing these experiences, people will realize not only that there is a problem with how BMC handles emergent care, but also with the way health care is handled in general.

      Like

  16. Vanessa Gagnon says:

    So sorry to hear of your horrendous experience. This must be common practice at Berkshire Medical Center. My father went to the er there early this year with signs of a stroke and they dismissed him the exact way that they dismissed you. Keep in mind that there is a medication that can be given to stop a stroke if it is given within a certain time frame. He and my mother spent hours waiting and questioning when a doctor would come. The er staff ignored them while socializing and whatnot and that short time frame in which the medication could have been given was long gone by the time a doctor finally got to him. The doctor found that he did, in fact, have a small stroke. He was heard yelling at the staff for not following proper stoke procedure. Shortly after that incident he had a much larger stoke that could have been prevented if his first small stoke had been treated with the medication. A group of doctors there admitted to that. They admitted that the er staff didn’t follow procedure and the second stroke, the one that he is still suffering side effects of, could have been prevented if they did their jobs. I hate that Berkshire Medical Center is the only hospital in the county that is equipped to handle real traumas. I hate that they claim to be an award-winning er but the staff is not even trained to assess patients unless they come in by ambulance. That’s the only real way to get any attention from them. I’m sorry for your suffering at the hands of such unqualified and uncaring staff and unfortunately, you are not alone in that.

    Like

    • C.M. Berry says:

      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your own experience with me. My father had a somewhat similar experience in that a nurse administered a medicine that he was clearly allergic to. It was listed on his chart and discussed during his intake. Somehow the doctor and nurse who treated him missed that information and he had an adverse reaction to the medication; one that could have killed him. If I remember correctly, my father later on overheard the nurse saying that she could have and almost did kill him. It was a terrible situation. Generally speaking, I think we all understand that mistakes do happen, but medical professionals need to be held to a higher standard. Lives can be lost or severely impacted in negative ways if they aren’t. It begins with proper training.

      Like

  17. Audrey shelton says:

    A few years back I went to the ER for pain I was having. Turns out it was stones.The problem I had with them was while waiting in the waiting room. While sitting out there I had a seizure. Not one attendant or gard notice this. They found me on the floor half out of it. I was there by myself at the time so had no one to get help for me. After they found me they had a big to do about it calling my home many times, I’m sure to make me feel better so I would not sue them. The ER can be lax at best here at times, but others very good.

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