Written by: Nurse James, Staff
I am on the second floor dinning hall at supper time. It is a Sunday night, and it is busy.
Even though I am the Nurse for the Drop-In Centre, I frequently come out of my office and help the staff on the second floor, especially around supper time. I get to hang out with the clients, which gives me a chance to know them a bit better and to work with the staff.
Tonight it pays off to know the clients by name and mannerisms.
I spot a client about ten meters from where I am. I am talking with another client about flu shots, and I observe a female client with an unsteady and unbalanced gait. Now I know that working where I do, and at night, this certainly is not an unusual or isolated occurrence. At any give time we have many inebriates and clients that are in a drug induced state. But like I said, knowing this client and seeing her walk the way she was walking was unusual to me.
I cautiously approach her and ask if she is OK. I say cautiously because I know that she is not a drinker nor a heavy drug user and I do not want to seem accusatory in any way.
She has a black eye, and she has several bruises and areas on her forehead that are swollen. Conversing with her for less than two minutes I determine that she has suffered a head injury.
She tells me that she was assaulted leaving the train platform yesterday. She tells me that she was knocked unconscious and that she woke up an undetermined amount of time later, confused, disoriented. A little bit later, she woke up some more and realizes that three hours have passed and that she is not at the train station any more, she is downtown somewhere.
She calls her boyfriend on the phone and he comes to find her and takes her to a Medical Clinic not far away.
She does not have an Alberta Health Care Card.
At the Clinic the Nurses and the Doctors tell her that she is not severely hurt. Send her on her way without checking to see if she needs more of an assessment.
They tell her to return when she has insurance.
As I am talking with her I can see that her left pupil is greater in diameter than her right pupil. The pupil size troubles me, as I know that this is a sign of an internal head injury.
She is having trouble speaking and remembering things, this is another indication she has a head injury. She cannot remember where she was or what she did for three hours. These are all indicators that she has a head injury and that something is wrong.
I advise her that she needs a Doctor and she tells me no, she already tried that route.
I talk with her a little more, and I convince her to see a Doctor that I know from CUPS. She agrees.
The Doctor at CUPS looks at her and calls CUPS transport to have a CAT SCAN and MRI done on her.
She goes to the Peter Lougheed Hospital.
She has a concussion and bruised retina.
The neurologist tells her it is a good thing that she came to see them. Her concussion is mild and will pass within a week or so, but the eye needs to be assessed more thoroughly.
She returns to see me a day later and thanks me for 'strongly advising her' to see a Doctor. As she tells me what the Hospital found on the CAT SCAN, she can see I am not happy at all. She asks if I am upset.
No, I am not upset. Upset is what you get when you spill your coffee in your lap. Upset is what you get when you lock your keys in your car. I tell her I am more than upset.
I am furious. I am extremely disappointed that something like this can happen in our city.
Calgary is one of the most diverse, wealthy cities in North America; maybe the world. And STILL this happens? Someone with no fixed address and poor is told by some Medical Professional that they will not see her and treat her injuries because she has no insurance?
I am more than upset. This should not happen in this day and age. With all of our vast knowledge and our claims to be civilized this person, this human being is slighted and told to come back when she has insurance.
There outta be a law...oh wait a minute. There is a law. Hospitals and Clinics cannot refuse to see a person based on income or insurance status. But STILL it happens. It happens a lot more than I would like to think it does.
I am also happy. Happy that she is alright, and that with proper ongoing treatment, maybe she will have normal vision in her left eye.
Written and submitted by: Nurse James, Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre
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