I visited Kaiser Permanente hospital on Morse Avenue in Sacramento, California on Thursday, January 27, 2022. I was experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, light headed, high pulse rate, fatigue, and radiating pain from upper back around to my right arm. My son drove me to the hospital and rolled me into the emergency room and pushed me to the nurse counter. Its where I sat for at least 15 minutes, even though another staff member told the RN I was experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. As the pain intensified and I realized I was not being evaluated, I tapped on the window next to me, barely able to even speak. I just didn’t feel like I had any strength. I finally got the nurse’s attention.
He proceeded to talk down to me, in a disrespectful and demeaning way, and snapped at me by saying, “I can’t just stop what I’m doing with my other patient to see you.” Other words were said, that made me feel humiliated, but I didn’t have any strength to advocate for myself. My son could not stay because of the COVID policies. At that moment, I felt like a victim. I couldn’t believe I was experiencing such behavior from medical staff in the situation that I was in. I felt my issue was life threatening.
He put me on a pulse reader, and only then did they begin to care for me, and then requested an EKG. His tone only changed then, but it was all too late. I immediately felt my blood pressure and pulse rising even higher at the type of treatment I received.
Several minutes later they took me back to get an EKG. I was lying there for another 15 minutes, before someone hooked up an EKG. Again, I didn’t have the strength to request help or find out the status. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and needed a pillow to elevate my head. The nursing staff were chatting up, talking about dates, life, etc all while I thought I was dying. It definitely was not a place for healing to occur. I thought, if I could say something, I would say I am not interested in hearing about your dating life. I am dying here..people. I mention this because it was a distraction to timely care. The nurse who was putting the sticky tabs and preparing for my EKG, was talking and distracted. Let’s just say, she could certainly improve on her multi-tasking skills.
After my EKG was finally done, they took me around to a chair to sit in and wait for care. I overheard they were supposed to put me in a room. I told them I didn’t feel comfortable walking because I thought I was going to lose consciousness and felt dizzy. They made me feel as if I didn’t deserve a wheelchair. Someone asked me, “can’t you walk?” I said, “I don’t feel comfortable walking because I feel unsteady.” So, only then did they get me a chair and wheel me to another seat. The nurses drew blood to test and see if I was having an actual heart attack. The nurse drawing my labs also had a nasty attitude. It was obvious by her eye roll when I asked for a blanket because I was freezing. She looked at me as if, I had the audacity to ask for a blanket.
Next, I got a chest x-ray. And that was another degrading experience. The way the RN placed the IV in my arm, was uncomfortable, but also to the point that I could not bend my arm. The x-ray tech is telling me to take my shirt and bra off. I asked for help, and she said, “you can’t do it yourself?” I said, I wouldn’t have to ask if you allowed at least one family member to be in, and proceeded to explain the way the IV was placed, it was painful if I attempted to bend my arm. I needed to be able to bend my arm to wrap around to undo my bra and pull my shirt off. Mind you, I was not steady and felt my balance off. She reluctantly helped me.
I writing this post to shed light on the way I and another man were treated on this day at the Kaiser on Morse hospital. My treatment was nothing compared to what I will share next. Every time I share or think about this event, it literally makes me sick.
There was this older man, whose home language is Punjabi. There was a language barrier; but you don’t need to be interpreter to know he was in dire emergency need. This man was gasping for air and vomiting blood. The care he received was something I would expect to see in a movie, not in United States, nor a prison health care system, or a communist country. For at a minimum, this man was seeking help, crying, “doctor, doctor, can’t breathe, doctor!” He was begging to be helped and not one person came to his aid. They gave him a vomit bag and was mad because he dropped the bag a couple of times. He was literally grunting, wrenching, and dropped his bag all while holding his stomach. The grimace on his face, the sounds he made made me think, I was going to witness him die in front of me. I immediately began to pray for him, asking God to breathe air into his lungs, and to spare him.
He dropped his bag a couple of times, and there were two nurses standing near him, but not helping him. One did hand him a bag and started cleaning up the vomit, but the other nurse was vicious. She started scolding him- several times over the course of 30 minutes. She yelled at him, “stop dropping your bag. You’re making a mess. Hold your bag!” He would cry out, “doctor..doctor…” And she would again, scold him and say, “we hear you already. Stop asking for the doctor.”
Eventually, at some point they moved him to the bed. He laid there continuing to grunt. No oxygen was given- nothing. They then start to ask him what happened. Apparently, he was hit in a vehicle accident. The doctor says, let’s get a translator. After, all this time they decided to call for an interpreter. Meanwhile this man, someones father, grandparent, sibling is struggling to breathe.
I am calling for the personnel who did not assist him to be terminated. No human being should be disregarded, ignored, humiliated, and left to suffer without timely medical intervention. I seen the doctor before him, and he was gasping and vomiting blood. It was obvious he was in excruciating pain.
She should be terminated from employment immediately. I don’t know what pledge she recited during her pinning ceremony, but she should revisit that and offer amends for all the people she has harmed by creating mistrust for the health care field. Her behavior/actions should be immediately investigated.
As I blog about this, I am reliving that traumatic night. I felt helpless for this poor man. I was afraid to speak up for him. I barely had the strength to even speak up for myself. I know my God is a God that heals and hears prayers. I can only hope that he survived. I can also only hope the day my brother was brought in from the ambulance on June 17, 2021, to Kaiser (the same hospital), that they did not ignore his dire need for medical intervention. He died in the Kaiser hospital emergency room.
On a side note, I recognize not all humans behave like she did or the nurse that checked me in, and that most first responders don’t have the same character. However, these type of behaviors must be addressed and stopped immediately. It is one of the reasons why people do not trust the health care system. Please change COVID policies so that families can advocate for their loved ones.
In honor of American Heart Health Month and Black History Month as we still fight to pursue heath justice and equity for all!