About: Darlington Memorial Hospital

(as the patient),

I was in ITU recently and I was quite distressed by some things that happened there as follows:

1. Whilst I was there no doctors spoke to me about what they had done to me and/or what was happening with my care, when I could be discharged etc. This was extremely unsettling for me as I am autistic (which the staff were aware of) and need predictably, and also I had been in an induced coma so I was quite disoriented, not even knowing which hospital I was in. My mum says none of them spoke to her either. Surely this is a pretty basic part of care - to communicate with patients? The only time a Dr came in and spoke to me was to tell me I was being sectioned, he then promptly exited again giving me no time to ask questions or discuss anything at all.

2. I feel that staff did not take account of my communication difficulties due to my autism, and instead I felt that they just punished me for not communicating my needs as they would expect. For example, I needed a wee and was as a result uncomfortable, but didn’t mention this for ages as I have significant anxiety around using the bathroom (I was literally too scared to mention it). At the same time I was being given fluids and I knew this would only make the problem worse, so I pulled out my cannula so I wouldn’t get anything more uncomfortable. The nurse didn’t ask why I’d done this, she just huffed at me at looked very disapproving. Also, when I became anxious due to feeling “watched”, and I was struggling with the environment especially as I didn’t know what was happening, I tried to leave, telling staff I wanted to go home as I wanted to be somewhere safe and comfortable. To this, they forced me back to my room and sectioned me, causing much further distress. Once more, nobody asked WHY I wanted to leave.

3. When I asked for anti sickness medication as I felt nauseous this was refused as I was told I wasn’t being sick so didn’t need it. This is despite me having been given it for nausea previously and the fact I was highly likely to start being sick at some point. Indeed, after being transferred to a psychiatric ward with no access to the medication I required, I began to vomit and this went on for two days and nights continuously, with me even vomiting blood at times. I was so weak I couldn’t stand or even hold a plastic cup. I believe that had I been given anti sickness medication whilst on ITU I would not have suffered so much following my discharge.

4. When I was being assessed under MHA by the psychiatrist and AMHP, a staff member kept answering questions they were asking me. Even when they asked if I felt unwell (which I did), before I could answer the staff member butted in and asserted that I was just being sick because I hadn’t eaten for a few days. Interesting, because I have not eaten or drunk anything for 4 days before and it never made me sick. Also, they told me I wasn’t being sick so didn’t need anti sickness medication...hmm. As ever, no matter what state I was really in, it felt clear they just wanted me out of there and were willing to say anything to get that. It’s odd to me because just hours earlier they told me I wasn’t well enough to go home, but now as there was a MHA assessment, miraculously I was well enough to be discharged!

5. There was also no sensitivity whatsoever around my difficulties with going to the bathroom - I cannot go on a commode or whilst being watched, and yet I was expected to do exactly that, with not only a staff member in the room with me, but two security staff at the doors (due to me being sectioned) and anyone walking past able to see through the windows. Undignified is not even the word for it, and try as I might as I was so desperate to go, I couldn’t and was left in considerable discomfort as a result. The staff member just said “don’t worry about it”. If only I could have, but I was in so much discomfort I couldn’t forget it for a minute, or settle in any sense at all. 

Now, I can’t comment on the rest of my care as I was in a medically induced coma. I am sure staff cared for me well, and of course they did save my life (even if I didn’t want them to). I would like to thank them for that. But please, please can they take account of and learn from some of the above, because once I was awake I believe I suffered unnecessarily (both physically and mentally) as a result of their actions which could have quite easily been amended to ease the situation. More communication and compassion would be most welcome.