Hospi-tales: Of being stupid and emergency care

Well, as you all know I used the last week to to enjoy the benefits of socialised healthcare. This first post will mostly explain about some good things about our system and some bad things about being tough.

I’ve been having some back troubles since summer. They usually flared up, subsided, no problem, right? So when my left thigh started hurting whenever I got out of the car or sat for too long, I didn’t heed it but thought “it will pass”. Please, don’t be me. I don’t know if the worst could have been avoided if I’d gone to the doc then, but I’d be kicking my own ass if I could reach it anyway.

Well, on Friday last week the pain increased to the level that I called my GP. I got an appointment for Friday this week… Saturday morning I decided it could not wait and made Mr drive me to the on duty GP. This is one level of German healthcare meant to prevent people with colds clogging the ER. Problem is that sometimes the person is not a GP but a specialised doctor,though I think they changed the rules and exempted specialists who are not able to diagnose an actual emergency like psychiatrists or eye doctors. The post is located in the hospital so they can react quickly in case of an emergency. The nice doc examined me, determined I had no neurological failure and sent me home with more pain medication. After lunch I had to admit that it wasn’t working and had Mr drive me to the ER.

Well, the system to keep the ER unclogged only works to a certain degree. I saw them send people next door, telling them that yes, their cold was bad but a case for the GP, but there were others who insisted to be an emergency. There was a guy who insisted he’d been waiting for hours (it was 45 minutes, as the friendly receptionist told him) and who demanded to be seen immediately. When he got told he had to wait he told them “well, just tear it up, I’m going home!” And of course actual emergencies and I do understand that an old lady with chest pain is probably more serious than me. But I was never good at making my pain heard, so I got pushed to the back of the line until I told them after two hours that I was about to puke on the floor from pain. That got their attention. I got sent for x-rays (nothing to see, thankfully) and hooked up to IV painkiller. I was offered to stay and first declined (I am not the smartest cookie), but when the painkiller didn’t show any effect I decided to stay.

The morale, dear children: go see your doctor if you can. Don’t wait until you become a Saturday afternoon emergency.


  1. lumipuna says

    Congrats if you’re doing better now, Giliell.

    I’ve twice needed the on-duty service on a Friday evening. Can’t recommend.

    I was that young guy who threatened to walk away, after 4-5 hours of waiting to be examined (with mild pain and a vague suspicion of appendicitis). A nurse smartly encouraged me to wait a couple hours more for an X-ray (inconclusive) and a little more for some more sophisticated imaging method (indeed an appendicitis!). Then, it took the rest of the weekend to get someone operate me.

  2. says

    With me, the downplaying of my symptoms has nothing to do with being tough and everything to do with not wanting to be a bother to anyone. Inferiority complex does that.

    The wife of a friend of mine has downplayed acute appendicitis so long until it burst and she got full-blown peritonitis instead. She nearly died due to a combination of her own tendency to downplay any illness and her GP being rather blaisé with her (his examination was only a verbal one, not a smart thing to do with a patient who tends to downplay symptoms). Her husband has actually saved her life by forcing her into a car against her will and driving her to a hospital. There, when the young, befuddled & inexperienced MD told him that he does not recognize the symptoms and only could do an MRI as last resort, he told him forcibly: “Well? Then what are you waiting for, do an MRI then!” And the MRI has shown the abdominal cavity full of puss. Straight into the OR after that and IV antibiotics. Just a few hours later and even modern medicine would not be able to save her.

    The problem in that story is, apart from the difficult patient, that any doctor should be able to recognize symptoms of appendicitis by palpating the stomach, but none of the doctors involved has actually even thought of doing that. Which is in my opinion inexcusable in a general practitioner with years of praxis.

    Also in that story was displayed one huge flaw of German health care, and that is a serious lack of ambulance capacity and funding. My friend has tried to call an ambulance, but was denied because …. reasons???… the symptoms are not severe enough???… He was never able to explain it to me in a way that I would understand.

  3. says

    Huh? I never heard of anybody beung denied an ambulance before. I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about patients waiting in front of the door with a carefully packed bag. Whenever I called an ambulance (and I have to do that rather often at work and a few times at home), they always came promptly. Though different states have different systems b with mine, for once, having the smartest, with a centralised service.
    Sometimes you need to use the service despite it not being medically necessary. Like at school, when a kid is sick or hurt and the parents cannot pick them up but we cannot take responsibility for them.

  4. says

    “Huh?” Was my reaction as well, tbh. This was in northern Bavaria btw.

    When I had a nervous breakdown at work, they were able to call me an ambulance without problems too. I have no idea what went wrong in this case, but I am glad that all the things gone wrong stopped going wrong before it was too late.

    Best wishes for your back getting back to normal.

  5. kestrel says

    I’m sorry to hear this, here is hoping for a good doctor to figure this out and get you treated.

    Perhaps this will amuse you: the Partner works in the ER and they actually have people come in because they have SORE MUSCLES from mowing the lawn for the first time or whatever. Your system of directing people away from the ER is actually a great idea; some people have apparently never experienced sore muscles before, and need to be gently prodded in the right direction.

    Although I don’t think you should have been pushed to the back of the line. They have people who triage here; do they not have that there? Your case is definitely more acute than someone with a cold.

  6. voyager says

    I’m very glad that you’re home and on the mend. Our medical system sounds similar to yours. We have what are called walk-in clinics for non-emergency sorts of things and then the ER for the more serious stuff.

    Pain is a warning sign. If you have pain that doesn’t go away or that keeps coming back go to see your Dr.

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