• Mon, Jan 23 2012

My Miscarriage Taught Me To Stand Up Against My Doctors

I contacted the hospital’s patient advocate office, simply to share my story and make them aware of my treatment. I wasn’t looking for compensation, but I was hoping that the attitude I encountered in that hospital would be addressed. While the customer service representatives I spoke with were very apologetic and kind, it doesn’t make me feel better about the staff who did nothing to inform me or calm me down. As medical professionals, I assumed that was part of their job. The advocates office told me that I should have asked to speak to a manager that evening, and perhaps I should have. But who considers questioning the doctors and nurses who’ve been entrusted to save your life?

All patients are in a vulnerable position, especially in the midst of an emergency. We don’t feel that we have the knowledge to question doctors or surgeons, no matter how they treat us. That night, even in my anger, I trusted that doctor who only spoke a sentence to me. For better or worse, my life was in his hands.

Since my experience, though, I’ve spoken with friends and family about my wariness of hospital staff. “You need to be your own advocate,” I’ve told them. “You have to keep asking questions and demanding that they pay attention.” The patient advocates told me that the doctor who treated me hadn’t realized his bedside manner was abrupt. He said that he had no idea that I wasn’t informed by the nurses of what was going on. The nurses said that the assumed the doctor had reassured me when he stopped in. Even in a relatively empty E.R., I had gotten lost in the shuffle. If I ever have to return to the E.R., I have a feeling I’ll be the patient the nurses hate; I’ll badger them with questions until I’m satisfied with the answers.

This experience has caused me to question my faith in many things, but it has completely destroyed the trust I once had for medical professionals. It I was naive, that horror of suffering has cured me. And whether it’s fair or not to put this on their conscience, I hope that the doctor and nurses I came into contact with think of me next time they treat a shattered woman who’s mental and physical health rely not just on meds, but some reassurance that things will be okay. I hope that they realize that they failed once, so that they’ll try harder with the women who have to go through this horror after me.

Photo: Shutterstock

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  • Briana Rognlin

    This story makes me feel so much for Lindsay. I’ve had frustrations with doctors in the past and it’s been infuriating…and that’s just been when I’m dealing with things like acne! The thought of listening to nurses chatting about New Year’s Eve plans in the hallway while you wait an hour to find out if your fallopian tube is bursting is horrific.

    Maybe hospitals should just put those advocates out on the floor instead of in a call room.

  • Kate

    I have followed your posts on mommyish, and I am just so sorry for your loss and also the treatment you recieved at the hopsital. I think your situation was worse, but i know how you feel to some extent. when my last baby was born she went to nicu and i could not be with her, i went to visit her in the wee hours of the night to check on her progress (not good at the time, she is healthy now) and a horrible nurse not only told me to call the nicu and not come down tehre and bother her, but also blamed me for my little girl being in the nicu in the first place. people can be just awful, and you always have a right to complain!
    My best wishes and prayers for you and your husband

    • Lindsay Cross

      Kate, thanks so much for your thoughts. It’s a hard way to start the conversation, but I think it shows that there’s a real need to address the power struggle between patients and medical providers. We never have a choice other than “go to the hospital” when it comes to medical emergency, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be treated with kindness when we get there. I’m sorry for your experience as well. I’m glad to hear that your little one is doing well!

  • autumn

    I am so sorry for your loss. My heart broke for you reading your story and I wish your experience at the hospital wouldn’t have been so bad. I absolutely agree with you that hospital staff should be more empathetic and understanding about what their patients are going through, as I have my own bad experience. When I had my first son, I was 19 when I was pregnant and 20 when I had him. It was on my record that I was considered a “teen pregnancy.” THat was a pill I could swallow…until it started affecting how I was treated in the hospital. My son had to be in the NICU and I barely saw him or held him while we were in the hospital. I went in on the second day we were there and asked the nurse if they were done doing stuff to him so I could hold him. This is what she said in reply to my request to hold my newborn son in the NICU…she said “we usually try not to disturb them when they are sleeping, but its your baby, do what you want.” I went back to my room in tears. seriously? They didn’t want me to hold my baby??? Then on our discharge day, my sister n law was helping me pack the baby up since my husband was sick, and the nurse explained our discharge instructions to her…she never once looked at me or spoke to me. I was so upset. Part of patient care is empathy and understanding. Yet, so often this is lacking at moments in our lives when we need it the most. This has to change….

  • bl

    I’m so sorry for your loss and your horrible ER experience. I think helplessness and feeling loss of control over your body can be very traumatic and it’s completely understandable that you’re still upset. I hope the hospital takes your complaints seriously enough to make changes. The doctor’s and nurses’ excuses were not good enough.

    90% percent of my doctor experiences have been good, but I had one experience that reminded me to be my own advocate and researcher. I had severe gynecologic pain, and a doctor I had never met told me my choices were surgery or medication-induced menopause. I was 20. When I said “umm,” she said “Decide! Now. I need to schedule or get your precription.” She stormed out of the room. I left soon after and never went back. Should have been bold enough to complain.

  • Mollie

    What a heartbreaking account of what you had to endure. My prayers are with you and your family. And I couldn’t agree more with your point, although it bothers me that any patient should have to work so hard for decent treatment.

  • lilacorchid

    So very sorry to hear about your ectopic. That is pretty much what happened to me… infertility, surprise pregnancy, ER visits, pain, confusion, ectopic, surgery, the works. My own OB didn’t even give enough of a crap to come by and see me. It was a kick in the ass on top of everything else. I am so very very sorry this happened to you. All of it. :(

  • Patti

    I was 18 when I found I was pregnant and the pregnancy was ectopic. Luckily, it was outside of the tube, between my ovary and my Fallopian tube. I was terrified because I didn’t know I was pregnant. I had just moved out on my own and unfortunately, I was raped which caused the pregnancy. It was a very bad time, and the staff at the hospital treated me okay, but I can’t say that they didn’t have some kind of bias.
    I’m sorry you had to go through this terror. It is a reminder that we all need to remember that pregnancy is still dangerous, and hospital staff should treat each patient with respect and compassion, no matter what the patient is there for, and that there should be no prejudices towards patients seeking care.

    • Lindsay Cross

      I am so very sorry, both for your loss and the circumstance that put you there.

      And thanks to everyone for sharing there stories in the comments. It definitely shows that this is a problem bigger than one person’s trip to the emergency room. It’s sad that so many people have had to go through their difficult health scares without support and kindness from their doctors and medical professionals.

  • Sandra

    I’ve been in and out of hospitals for the past 5 years…4 with cancer, finally got pregnant (much to our surprise – and so excited). Then, the baby died. There was a high danger of hemorraghing, and I required (yet another) surgery.

    I, too, have seen doctors and nurses exhibit this type of behavior. Not an enormous number of them – but one behaving badly in a sensitive situation is plenty. It’s evidence of how doctors in the US are trained. They are TRAINED to be distant/clinical – and I suspect that they grow to be moreso to protect themselves emotionally. My theory is that this leads to a lack of respect for each individual’s dignity. Healthcare that is delivered without heart does not help the patient heal. A cousin of a friend was criticized while in medical school. They kept telling him he “cared too much” – which was the reason he went into medicine in the first place: He cared about people and wanted to help them heal. He left med school in the US and finished in Italy (where I currently live).

    Bad news is easier to swallow if the person delivering it isn’t mean/cold – plus, there’s the practical side of being kind/caring. It lowers the stress level and is reassuring which lowers actual and perceived pain levels (if not physical then mental/emotional pain), but my experience has been that it most definitely has a direct effect on actual pain. There is still, here in Italy, a strong respect for life and human dignity – and this attitude extends down to veterinarian care.

    You do have to advocate for yourself – absolutely. You know yourself, your situation, and your body better than any doctor. (This type of vigilance can be exhausting, but it is necessary.) – And this may sound awful, but standing up for yourself may mean being abrupt/curt with the providers. (I had a nurse get upset with me because SHE couldn’t get my meds regulated?!? – She was upset because I chose a PCA (patient controlled analgesic) which required more work for her to get it regulated…yet, previous caregivers had no problems. At that point, I’d had enough experiences such that I was able to rein her in (set her straight in no uncertain terms) – even in my gorked out state.)

    At this point, I actually (most times) feel compassion for doctors and nurses that behave this way – once I’m through being really angry. Think about where their hearts must be if they are treating someone in your situation, for example, as they did…ouch. Sad.

    So sorry to hear about your experience and your loss, and unfortunately, it’s much too common.

    And…if any nurses or doctors happen to be reading this, cut the chatter in the hallway!! It’s unprofessional, makes you come across as insensitive at best, and frankly, many times…incompetent. (Not that you are, but it really does come across that way.) We can hear you…please take it somewhere else. (And try not to refer to your patients as bed numbers, too – especially within earshot of said patients…I get the efficiency in this, but we are people, not numbers. It is dehumanizing.) Okay, done now.

    Shout out to the nursing staff at Newport Hospital in Newport, RI…caring, professional..and simply, awesome! They do it the way it should be done. Brava!

    Wishing you swift healing, Lindsay, a new, healthy pregnancy – and may your experience serve to help others! Your suffering won’t have been in vain – seems like you’ve already helped many people with this article alone.

    • Suze

      We refer to you as your bed number because it would be a HIPAA violation to talk in the hallways using your real name.

    • Sandra

      Thanks for putting that in perspective. That makes sense about the HIPAA regs…still a shame, but I can see why. The bed # issue was from a friend of mine (who is also a nurse and does the same thing, for the same reasons I’m sure). She’d just never experienced it from the patient perspective til last week while sitting with her father in the hospital.

    • MeaganR

      I know that healthcare professionals can’t use names due to HIPPA, but what about saying “the patient in bed six”? It sounds much better, and also is less confusing. I mean, someone interpreting “Bed 6 needs an enema” in a literal way could have some messy results. Not that the proper way would be clean and pretty. But I digress.

  • Lauren

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Lindsay. I have read your posts on here, Mommyish and The Gloss and I feel as though I have gotten to know you even if I don’t always comment. While I don’t know what it is like to try to get pregnant, or lose a pregnancy, I can only imagine it is the worst kind of pain a woman can face. My heart breaks for you and your family, and I hope that the outpouring of well wishes here helps get you through this difficult time.

    • Lindsay Cross

      Lauren, thank you so much for your thoughts and for reading. All of these comments have definitely helped me to feel like I’m not alone. The support has been so wonderful. I really appreciate everyone’s well wishes. Thanks again.

  • Sonsy

    While waiting for and recovering after a D and C for miscarriage at 12 weeks, I was placed on a busy maternity ward with a newborn crib and booties next to my bed. I checked myself out that night.

    • Lindsay Cross

      Oh my Heavens, I’m so sorry. I wish you the very best.

  • Lucy

    I had an ectopic pregnancy few years ago. It started with bleeding so we rang the emergency services which sent me to hospital as they said sounds as tho baby is in wrong place. So I get to the hospital only for the doctor to tell me everything seems fine without doing a scan she made an appointment for a week later! So we go to the appointment they diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy had to have an operation to remove to tube and pregnancy I was so devastated. I thought id never have children again only exactly a month later to the date I got pregnant and went full term plus six days late!! I now have a gorgeous baby girl who I called lily and she’s seven months old now. So women going through this have hope!! Best wishes xx

  • Booby

    So sad :-(((((

  • Kels

    Awwwww poor babies :-(

  • Beyourownadvocate

    Your story is eerily similar to my own. I didn’t even get a room at the er and was laying. In pain on a stretcher in the hallway for over 3 hrs. That’s after the 45 min wait in the waiting area. When a Dr finally asked me what was going on on the hallway he offered me tylenol! I could have slapped him. I ended up receiving. A second dose of methotrexate after many more days in the hospital. That was a year ago and I st had laparoscopy surgery to repair the damage from my tube
    Were now ttc again.