The Accident at Tashi Lapsa Pass – Part 12: The ICU

With the surgery done, Louise is taken from the O.R to the postoperative recovery ward. It’s another tough night ahead for our patient…

 

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As opposed to the private room I had back in the ward, I was away in the corner of the ICU/recovery unit with other patients in two out of the remaining three beds.

 

The ICU at Louise's Kathmandu hospital. File image supplied courtesy of the hospital.

The ICU at Louise’s Kathmandu hospital. File image supplied courtesy of the hospital.

 

I had a pulse monitor on one finger and a blood pressure machine attached to the other arm. This automatically recorded pulse and BP readings at regular intervals, and must have been connected to a monitor at the main nurse’s station since I really didn’t see many nurses come in. I was not given a call button so I couldn’t call to the nurses when I needed assistance. I asked to see Bijay, who was staying up in my room in the ward, several times during the evening but kept being told over and over again by the nurses that they had tried to contact him and that he had ‘gone out’.

I was receiving fluids through an IV but the nurses must have set the drip rate very low. I had been told by the doctor I could have something to drink approximately four hours after the surgery, but this had either not been properly conveyed or it was being ignored by my carers. By now, I was dehydrated to the point of feeling ill. It was only after Bijay’s insistence, hours later, that the doctor was called to clarify the issue and I was finally able to have some water.

As the evening progressed, my pain threshold was to be tested once again. I was told that I had to stay lying down because I had had the spinal tap. But it also became apparent to me around that time that in addition to my broken leg, I had suffered an injury to either my rib or muscles near the rib. This was causing me so much pain after the surgery that I was finding it nearly impossible to stay lying flat. Requests for assistance for this problem were ignored by staff, who just continued to insist I had to lie flat.  When it became impossible for me lie down because of the pain, a number of the nursing staff – and one junior doctor in particular – became very rude and disrespectful towards me, both directly to my face, but also while talking about me to others.  

Two nurses actually stood over me, discussing me in Nepali and saying I was ‘difficult’. I overheard one nurse making the completely false claim that I was continuously demanding food while I was there (chicken and pasta according to her). The junior doctor in question approached my requests for pain relief and some water with the comment “what do you want now?” in a very rude tone of voice. A second junior doctor on-call that night suggested to Bijay late in the evening that the reason why I was not responding to the pain medicine I was being given was because I “was clearly an alcoholic”.

At around midnight, I couldn’t stand the situation anymore: the pain, the dehydration and the isolation. I got really upset and started to cry, which resulted in both my blood pressure and my pulse rate soaring. This set off a ‘code red’ response on the monitor, which, in turn, sounded an alarm around the ward. Instantly, two nurses arrived at my bedside and miraculously, only three minutes later, Bijay was there as well. I told him what was going on and in a calm and controlled voice, he started addressing some of the things I so desperately needed.

The assistant surgeon was contacted and thanks to his intervention, I was finally allowed to drink some water.

Bijay denied the junior doctor’s claim about my being an alcoholic who did not respond to pain-killers and the dosage was soon increased slightly.

The bed was raised a few inches, which took the pressure off the injury in my chest.

Bijay assured me that he was staying in my room up in the ward, and that staff were obviously not trying hard enough to contact him when requested. Having also had enough of the situation, he confronted the staff on their lack of respect: despite the fact that they were talking about me in Nepali, he informed them I understood every word.

This last revelation shocked the nursing staff, who assumed I couldn’t understand a thing.

Eventually I was able to go to sleep that night, and somehow too, made it through the morning and into the early afternoon of the following day. The senior surgeon came to visit in the morning as well and reiterated what other staff were saying about the spinal tap and needing to stay lying down. I said that was fine but I also expected staff at least to try to assist with the pain I was experiencing in my chest area rather than dismissing it. At 4:00pm I was finally taken upstairs to the ward. Why I needed to stay such a long time down there I will never understand. It had been a nightmare – almost worse than the accident in some respects, since I found the people at the hospital were so unkind.

Once back in the ward, things improved. I was still somewhat shaken by my experiences in the ICU and it took a while before I started to develop a more balanced view of the hospital. Another challenge we encountered too, was that the hospital ‘banned’ children from visiting, whether they were patients’ children or visitors. This meant that every time I wanted to see Shanaia, we had to seek formal approval.  I am really not sure how they could justify that rule, given that I was staying in a private room. Responses to requests for quite small – but important – things were very slow.

 

Tomorrow: the conclusion to The Accident at Tashi Lapsa Pass.  

 

 

About Louise Currie

Originally from Australia, although I have been living in Nepal since 2005. I worked for a long time for an international aid agency in Kathmandu. I am interested in community development and having adventures in remote places. I am married with one daughter.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Dearest Louise, I was waiting for the last post before reading so I could know the ending and that you were OK. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. What a gripping and moving tale, and what unbelievable people you have been with, both good and bad. I now await the final outcome. Thankyou for sharing your story. it is very generous of you to do so.

    Yvette

  2. Louise Currie says

    Thanks Yvette

    You are so right: I saw the best and worst of people during this time. I don’t think this is just in Nepal – I think anyone who goes through an intensely difficult situation anywhere finds the same. We are still very close to Lakpa, who carried me down from the accident site – and I continued to visit the senior surgeon who did my operation right up until we moved back to Melbourne in December 2014. But others – well, happy not to see them again.

    Louise

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