I’m a brown woman, in my late 30’s living single and happy with my dog Sir Wellington, an English dog. I’m just like many other young professionals doing my best in this pandemic, working, trying to keep to myself and stay safe.
It was on Sunday around midnight that I started getting pain on my chest and back that wouldn't go away and just kept getting more intense (not Covid). I called 911, firefighters came to my house. There were at least four of them that I could see, they were young men, just following procedures. Only one of them spoke to me and the rest were taking my vitals and keeping busy. We were in my down stairs entryway which is not very big and a bit narrow.
Nothing abnormal came back on the test the firefighters did and because they weren't able to find anything wrong they advised me to drive myself to the ER or call an Uber. I guess if their little machine doesn't say you're in pain then you're not, despite any other symptoms you may have.
Once the firefighters left, I had a moment to myself and thought how would I get myself to the hospital and which hospital do I need to go to? To be honest there was little thinking done, the pain just took over. I had so much pain that I didn't want to wait for an Uber so I just managed to drive myself somehow. I wasn't sure where I was going as I just clicked on the closest hospital to me on the map. I ended up at the county hospital which has a reputation, I found out...
Once I finally found the ER entrance, I was a little relieved to see very little wait at the lobby. Maybe this should have been the first red flag.
The lobby was shortened to the entrance area, there was one line of about five chairs against the wall immediately next to the entrance door. Right across was the nurse's desk and behind it was a large scale and a single chair. The rest of the lobby was empty. There was a staff person cleaning the floors and a security person sitting behind what used to be the main desk area and a greeting nurse.
The nurse, a chatty white lady in her late 50s, started the check in process and asked me why I hadn't called 911 for an ambulance? I told her I had but was told I didn't need one and could drive myself. She immediately said, "Oh, it's a brown thing! I see it a lot here." truly upset.
I seriously was in so much pain that the thought had never crossed my mind until then.
I went through their triage setup and found myself in a bed, in room 23. By that point I was crying in pain, I had had several test done by then but no pain control.
To be honest, I don't remember at what time of the night/morning one of the residents came by to tell me they were running more tests because they didn't know why I was having so much pain. They asked me where my pain was and if I had had any previous surgeries. I told them the same thing I had told everyone else who had asked the same questions; I had chest and back pain, and it hurt taking long breaths, hiccupping and burping, which my body kept having outbursts of. They didn't really discuss much more with me but finally and very reluctantly gave orders to give me pain control.
I remember my first nurse of the night, a white lady named Leigh Ann she looked to be in her late 40's or early 50's. She didn't really talk to me, just asked a few questions. She tried to get an IV going on my hand veins. She didn't do it right, burst my vein and I started screaming in pain, to which she said it was fine and continued to fill a lab tube. I continued screaming in pain and demanded she take it out. Reluctantly she did and as she did blood was gushing out, down my fingers to the bed and down to the floor. I remember her saying "I'm going to get something to clean your hand up". And left me there holding a small gauze over my poor bleeding hand. I was so tired and in so much more pain than I didn't realize that when she came back she had only cleaned up the blood on the floor but left my hand and bed as it was, covered in blood. It was not until I had asked to be unplugged from my bed to go to the restroom that I noticed all the blood, dried by now, was still there.
When I finally felt some relief I immediately texted my older sister to let her know I was at the ER and spread the word to the family. My mother and sisters live out of state but I have some family I'm close with in the next town over, but still a good 90 minutes drive.
My family is from the Midwest. I'm an adopted child and probably the only "brownie" in my family. I don't really see bias in color, I have always felt like I belong.
As a color person I have experienced some bias but never at this level. I guess I've just been lucky until now.
My older sister is a force to not thrive against. She is a very smart lady and has worked for the county at 911 services since I can remember, which can make her really scary and effective when she wants to get something done. My aunt is another force, she is a medical doctor with plenty of experience and lives in the next town over. When these two ladies team up is best to just do as they say.
Room 23, not really a room but a curtain section off that was right next to the nurses station. I could hear everything and I'm sure they could hear me crying. The nurses never checked on me though, I had to stick my head out of the curtain and ask for a blanket, to be let go to the restroom and ask to see the doctor. I don't even remember if there was a push button to call the nurses. If there was nobody showed it to me.
I could hear the phone ringing, it was my sister. She would ask me something and If I didn't know she would call the nurse. And there was a lot I didn't know because nobody was telling me anything. At one point I was no longer room 23 when the nurses referred to me, I was now "that patient".
Meanwhile my pain was starting to creep up and when I asked to see the doctor the nurse kept playing interference. Also, at some point there was a shift change and I now had a different nurse. I remember how friendly and popular she was with the other staff, I could hear her calling people by nicknames and so on. She wasn't friendly with me, with me it was all business, which is fine but kept making excuses for the doctor not coming by.
The resident was a white male, late 20s or early 30s, about 5'6, he had long messy hair, I think by design, he was wearing a headband, blue scrubs and black Chucks like mine but much more worn with a tear on the back of the left shoe that he kept playing with. His ID card showed a photo of a well groomed guy, must have been a past life. Either way he didn't inspire much confidence, at least not to me. Not because of his appearance but because there was no certainty in his answers and little motivation to find the root of the cause either.
The nurse came by and informed me that I was being discharged. That the doctors couldn't find anything and there was nothing else they could do. Of course I objected, I was having high pain again and they were just going to leave to fend for myself. I was so scared!
I think the resident heard me from wherever he was because he made a brief appearance to tell me I needed to follow up with my primary doctor and I should take ibuprofen and Tylenol together for the pain. They would give me something strong for pain now but that's all they could do. And then he was gone.
The nurse got her orders but said since I drove myself they could not give me anything strong for the pain. If they did I needed to call an Uber to come pick me up because I could stay there.
I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what to do, I was freaking out. I thought for sure I was going to die from all the pain. I finally got my sense back and called my sister, again.
My sister of course raised hell with the nurse. Then she called me really upset, said my aunt was on her way and I should take their meds and try to stay inside as long as I could. She was truly angered by the service they were giving me or of lack of. The nurse didn't say anything else to me.
At some point my aunt made a phone call to the nurse asking to speak to the doctor. She made it known she herself was a doctor and that's when things started to change a little. The phantom resident suddenly made an appearance at room 23.
By the time the resident came to see me, I was back in so much pain crying out loud because the nurse was holding the pain meds hostage. I remember the resident trying to reintroduce himself and I cut him off: "What is wrong with me? Why am I having so much pain?" all the while still crying out loud in pain. He wasn't expecting it and froze for a second. Finally he said he didn't know. He was starting to tell me about the test and results but I was already dialing my aunt to have him talk to her.
I was already calling my aunt when I remembered to ask the resident if he would speak with her. I guess I didn't give him a choice, I just handed him the phone. He showed me some paper and said something while taking the phone, I didn't quite pay attention to what it was until later. During the call I sat rocking myself at the end of the bed crying in pain and watching this doctor walk back and forth and in circles while talking to my aunt on the phone. The nurses were watching too.
He handed me the phone back and said my aunt was on her way. He also said they were going to get meds right away and I was going to stay in bed until my aunt got to the hospital. We would talk again before I was discharged.
Soon after the nurse came in and was much more pleasant with me, she asked me what type of doctor was my aunt and if I needed another blanket or anything else.
I couldn't hear the nurses at the station anymore, if they were talking they were much quieter than before.
Once my aunt came in, she asked me the same questions as others had asked. I gave her the same answers. However, she found my difficulty breathing a concern and asked me if I had recently been sick. Which no one else had done to this point.
The resident quickly came over once he saw my aunt had arrived. They started talking about different diagnoses and so on. She brought up her observation and this was news to him. He decided he was going to discharge me anyways but would prescribe pain meds for the next two days so I could get in and see my primary doctor. Whom would take over my care.
The phantom resident was now almost permanently attached to us, as he volunteered to walk us to the pharmacy. During this little walk he thought maybe it would be a good idea to give me an ultrasound on my chest. Fastest test I ever had, he pulled me in an empty room, brought over the machine and did the test himself. Found nothing.
As we got closer to the pharmacy he pointed to the right door and said his goodbyes.
It's so sad, that any color person gets treated with just bias. Especially at a hospital, a place that's supposed to be for healing.
I'm particularly lucky to have the people in my life that can help me out of these situations. But what about everyone else? What about those who were not adopted into a white middle class family?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.