Ambulance crew makes distressed patient get to gurney by herself

Open letter to Interior Health, emailed Feb. 3, 2011:

Open letter to Interior Health, emailed Feb. 3, 2011:

I am writing to you on the advice of a nursing friend working in Kelowna, and my family and friends.

I was admitted to Kelowna General Hospital on Jan. 6, 2011 with a ruptured spleen. An ambulance was called for me from my home between 4 and 5 p.m. I am not exactly sure of the exact time.

The paramedics arrived first; they were very courteous and concerned as I was under the impression I was having a heart attack, due to the nature of my pain, which was prominently on my left shoulder and the neck on the left side. The heart monitor equipment did not register this, so the paramedics started asking questions just as the ambulance arrived.

The ambulance crew tried their heart monitor equipment and nothing on theirs either. From this moment on everything started going wrong; the male ambulance attendant was telling the paramedics to leave and that he had it under control. They did ask me if I wanted them to leave and I responded “if it gets me to the hospital quicker please do.”

I was in excruciating pain and could feel something very, very wrong. The male ambulance attendant did not seem to take any of my concerns seriously—he treated the whole incident as if I was pretending.

After a while he walked outside my home and told me if I wanted to get to the hospital I needed to walk out of my home myself. I could barely breathe or move. He then proceeded to stay at the bottom of my outdoor steps and waited for me with the gurney.

There are five steps inside my home to make it to the door and four steps outside the house to get to the gurney. I did this, I don’t remember exactly how, but I know I had no help or assistance from the ambulance personnel.

When I got to the gurney I had to get on it by myself as well. Once on it he pushed me down flat, with my protest that I could not do this as it hurt so much. He paid absolutely no attention to my complaint.

By this time, due to all the commotion and my howling in pain, we had five people witnessing this and all are willing to testify to this happening.

The ride in the ambulance was very painful and I remember asking this man “Why are you treating me with such disrespect? Is it because of where I live?”

His response was: “Just doing my job.”

When we arrived at the hospital the young lady ambulance driver hopped in the back to help to unhook the gurney; her face was absolute disbelief when she realized the gurney was not even fastened down (which was the reason the ride was so painful).

I was in the operating room within 30 to 40 minutes of arriving at the hospital, which means the report this man wrote was written after he found out how serious my situation was. He never once treated me respectfully or professionally. His entire demeanor the whole time was that of—oh, you’re just faking it.

Now my care in the hospital was absolutely amazing. I was taken care of and treated in the very best way you could imagine. I spent 18 days in the hospital, 13 of them in intensive care and have absolutely no complaints whatsoever about my treatment.

When I got home I got my second shock when the first two home care nurses came to my house and proceeded to inform my daughter that, regrettably, if she did need to call for help, she may not get it because of the road we live on. This was not said with malice but with such bland acceptance that it infuriated us. We thought, how dare you discriminate against people because of where they live?

This attitude must change—I could have died.

I am a 66-year-old pensioner, have worked all my life and have been diagnosed with angina pectoris a few years ago while still living in Ontario, hence my feeling of having a heart attack.

Thank you for your attention to this matter my deepest wish is that no one in Kelowna ever gets discriminated against just simply because of where they reside.

Verena

Wilkins-Gerber,

Kelowna