Monday, February 06, 2006

One girl's experience at the campus health center

She goes in with symptoms and they send her home with 7 Up. Here's how the student recounted her experience with the campus health center. In an email the other day, she also promised to send more details of the story as it develops. Here's her story from The Daily Campus:

There are some misconceptions about Toxic Shock Syndrome — like you can’t get it if you don’t leave your tampon in too long, or that only women get it. Toxic Shock Syndrome happens when an open wound gets a certain type of bacteria that everyone has inside of it, and starts to poison your entire body and shut down your organs.

That is what happened to me over the summer. I was taking summer courses when I came down with what I could tell was a pretty high fever. I then became so weak that I couldn’t even climb into my bed in Snider Hall. I ended up spending that night on the floor in the bathroom. The next morning I decided to go to the Memorial Health Center. The problem was, I was too weak to get there on my own.

I called the SMU Police Department, because they will help you get places on campus when you are injured or don’t feel safe. After first being told that they couldn’t help me get to the health center, I finally convinced someone to come escort me there. I tried getting someone from the health center to come help me first, but they never answered the phone.

When I got to the health center they took my temperature — 104 — and blood pressure — 60/44. They didn’t tell me how high my fever was or that my blood pressure was so low it was possible I wasn’t getting oxygen to my brain. They just gave me Tylenol for my fever and some 7 Up and had me lay in the health center until they closed, while they had three doctors, including the director of the health center, and two nurses unsuccessfully try to give me an IV eight times. When they closed, they put me in a wheelchair [and] left me in my empty dorm room, even though I had every symptom of Toxic Shock Syndrome in extremity. They should have sent me to the hospital upon first arriving there that day.

Later that night, I called the University Park Paramedics, because I was having difficulty breathing. I told them what I knew — that I had a fever, that I had been throwing up and had diarrhea, and that I had been drinking lots of ginger ale and juice since I got back from the health center. They gave me an IV and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. Since I had no insurance or money, I asked them if I needed to go. They told me no, that the hospital would only give me another IV and that I would be fine if I just drank a lot of water, and I signed the paper they gave me. I later found out that they claimed I refused transport against medical advice. I may be poor, but I’m smart, and if I were told I needed to go to the hospital, I would have gone instantly.

The next afternoon, I went to Lake Point Hospital, and thanks to the amazing doctors who treated me and figured out what was wrong in time, I survived. But, they told me that if I had gotten there 30 minutes later, I would have died. If I had been sent to the hospital 24 hours later I would not have had such a horrible case — one of the worst ever in North Texas. I missed the rest of summer classes, and if I hadn’t recovered so quickly I wouldn’t have been able to return to school in the fall.

The administration claims to have had the health center change their policies, but neither my parents nor I have been given any proof of this. There needs to be a major change in their policies (for example: not almost killing a student) and there should be an awareness program for Toxic Shock on campus — the health center doesn’t even have information about the syndrome.

I’m trying to work with the Women’s Center and Senate to help advocate that the Health Center to change their policies and to get an awareness program started. I never want this to happen to another student, and the only way to prevent that is by getting this information out there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

She seems a little ditsy to me. I thought most schools required health insurance, but she should probably have read the paper before signing it.

However, she probably is lucky: many paramedics just love dragging people to the hospital. Whether a paramedic can give “advice” is somewhat doubtful, anyway.

11:56 AM  
Blogger wolfa said...

Sounds rather like any campus health centre I've heard of -- I'm surprised she didn't mention having to take a pregnancy test.

At that high a fever with that low blood pressure, she wasn't "ditsy", she was sick.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous David said...

A sad state of affairs, I'd say. I'm just not sure whether this describes the health care provided, or her story-telling abilities.

"But, they told me that if I had gotten there 30 minutes later, I would have died.
If I had been sent to the hospital 24 hours later I would not have had such a horrible

Correct. Patient dead, case closed, not horrible at all.

"while they had three doctors, including the director of the health center, and two nurses unsuccessfully try to give me an IV eight times."

Does anyone believe this? At least the next day's paramedics managed to do what the docs didn't.

"When they closed, they put me in a wheelchair [and] left me in my empty dorm room,"

Yeah right.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Terminaldegree said...

Wolfangel nailed it: I'm surprised, too. The university health centers I visited as a student seemed to view a woman soley as a walking uterus. I'd go in for a dentist appointment and be asked if I needed birth control. An eye exam? Birth control question. A cold? You guessed it, birth control. While I appreciate that the health centers cared about birth control, I often wondered if their preoccupation with this one area of health diminished their ability to treat other health concerns. Clearly they were more interested in my reproductive health than in any other area of health care.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another example of the wonderful US healthcare system where basic medical services are an expensive privilege and not a human right.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Unless you go to a Catholic school, in which case they don't ever ask if you're sexually active or could be pregnant. I missed out on two months of prenatal care because my student health center kept testing me for Mono, saying "the test is almost positive" rather than testing one of seven vials of blood over a two week period for pregnancy hormone. And I didn't have insurance, either, so it took me another 6 weeks to find an OB/GYN with an opening.

Student health centers in general suck, and are only marginally better if they're attached to a University hospital.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Another example of the wonderful US healthcare system where basic medical services are an expensive privilege and not a human right.

Another example of an uneducated moron. [sigh]

Campus Health Services is about as close to socialism as you can get.

Clearly this girl was *SICK* - after dealing with paramedics three times over the past 2 months - they don't even ask if you want to be taken to the hospital - they check your symptomps, strap you up and go.

Also, ER's cannot turn away a patient based on financial status - so if you're really that sick, you'll be treated, and well. Long-term care (if needed) is up to you.

I just f*cking hate it when politics is brought into something that it doesnt need to be - sorry for the rant.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a paramedic, I must admit that I find this person's story a bit dubious. While I too have had to patiently wade my way through some err...rather interesting care at the campus health center while in college, I have trouble believing that a nurse and three doctors would push a patient whose blood pressure was so low back to their dorm room in a wheelchair to wait out the night. Most nurses I've met are more than happy to push their patients off to a higher level of care, both to avoid the liability and the work. As for the paramedics, whenever one decides to sign out of going to the hospital by ambulance, or for that matter checks out of an ER without recieving the recommended treatment, it is considered AMA, or "against medical advice". That means she was given treatment, offered transport, and decided on her own not to go.

Also, "But, they told me that if I had gotten there 30 minutes later, I would have died. If I had been sent to the hospital 24 hours later I would not have had such a horrible case — one of the worst ever in North Texas." Huh?

To me, this person sounds whiny and a bit overdramatic. I tend to think her story may be lacking some details that might give some greater context to the care she recieved. I'm sorry that the health center (most of which do not have the ability to do lab work or EKGs)missed her diagnosis, but no one ever accused them of being Johns Hopkins either.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous oliviacw said...

oh come on people, obviously the "24 hours later" was a typo - she meant that if she'd gotten there a day earlier, her case wouldn't have been as bad.

the paramedic thing (non-transport) is a little more surprising, but depending on how worried she was about her insurance status, I could see that kind of situation playing out. If she was coherent and the only problem appeared to be dehydration, they might have decided that she could be ok.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

The campus health center isn't called the Quack Shack for no reason. I went to the same campus health center on the hilltop during my junior year of college with a leg injury. I'd had problems with said leg for a few weeks and had been diagnosed with tendonitis. I had tripped and fallen (it was really weak and didn't support me much) on the cracked sidewalk outside the student center, and when I woke up the next morning (a Friday) my leg was hurting VERY badly and I could not put any pressure on it.

I managed to make it across the parking lot to the health center with the assistance of a desk chair on wheels and a friend. They x-rayed me, checked me out, and when the x-ray came back there was an OBVIOUS fracture in my leg. The tech said, "hey look, your leg is broken right here!" and pointed it out to me.

I expected the nurse or someone to tell me what the next course of action was as far as getting it in a cast, etc. but I was told that I would have to wait until MONDAY for the doctor to look at it. I asked the nurse how I was supposed to get around until then. He just shrugged. "You'll figure it out."

I laughed in their FACES and demanded a phone and my x-rays. My parents were there 20 minutes later, collected me and my x-rays and took me to the hospital. Thank goodness my parents were close by and that it wasn't anything life threatening. Even so, that's some pretty negligent health management.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also was unfortunate enough to have an experience with the health service on the hilltop. It was freshman year and right around parents weekend I started feeling awful. Unfortunately it wasn't until my mom left that I came down with the worst sickness I have had to this day (and that was ten years ago). My throat was so swollen it was almost closed off in the back, and tonsils completely inflamed. I literally could not swallow and was at the point where if the condition continued, my airway would be closed off.

Health Service: We can't do anything, it's a virus.
Me: I understand that, I'm a science major. However, what do I do if it keeps swelling?
Health Service: If your throat closes off, call us.

Um, ok... I'm sure it would be easy to make a phone call at that point. Not to mention that I'd probably have a few minutes to live.

Fortunately for me, the swelling subsided. But seriously, they must be the worst health services at any university (and I've attended several after transferring, graduate school, summers, etc).

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the same campus health center with a cold and got a prescription for Vicodin.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Campus health centers are notoriously bad- the one at my university is staffed by people who work under the assumption that anyone who comes in has a cold, and will get better if they just go away and leave the Student Health folks alone. I was back and forth there every week over the course of about a month while they cheerfully misdiagnosed me ("you have low blood pressure and need to eat more salt"). In the end I persuaded them to give me a referral to a Real Doctor. Diagnosis? CANCER. Yup. Salt would've helped loads.
So even if some details of this girl's story seem over-dramatic, I'm inclined to believe the stuff about incompetent care.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think every campus there are plenty of people with health services horror stories.

My freshman year, I broke a bone in my elbow. I went to student health services first to get an x-ray instead of the ER (insurance is more likely to pay for it that way). First, they wanted me to take a pg test. After informing them about 10 times that I was not sexually active and therefore would not need a pg test, they gave up on that and wanted to test me for mono before completing the xray. I'm in pain, can't move my arm and they want me to wait. I said no, just take the freakin xray. We go into the xray room and they ask me to straighten my arm. I told them I couldn't, the fact that I couldn't move my arm at all is why I was there.

X-ray is finally taken. The nurses and nurse practiciner take a look at the x-ray announce that become I can't move my arm, I have the symptoms of a broken elbow but they can't see it on the x-ray. I, with no medical training, take a 10-sec look at the screen and say, "what's that?" and point to a dark line on my elbow. Why it's the fracture in my elbow.

At that point, I asked to be referred to a dr. in town. The only dr. that can set bones (small town) could see me. One of the nurses finally takes pity on me, gives me a painkiller and drives me to the dr. The dr. was horrified that the nurses did not pick out the fracture and told me to not go there anymore. The only times I did go back, I would talk to the nurse about my symptoms by starting with, "I am not pregnant, I do not have mono, please don't even start" and then listed why I was there.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Ed Fuller said...

Someone died at UT-Austin because of a missed diagnosis related to something similar to toxic shock syndrome. The male dr totally missed the problem. The parents sued, the university settled, and then totally revamped the health center. It is far, far better than it was previous to the incident.

And to think that Republicans want to take away the right to sue.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once when I was in college, I had been sick with a cold, and my throat was sore and my tongue was sore. I went to the health center on campus. The doctor looked at my throat and tongue and said, "Oh, you drank something hot." And, I told her her that I had not had anything hot to drink. After several minutes of me swearing to her that I had not drank hot coffee, which did not burn my tongue, she just looked at me like I was an idiot and gave me a presciption for antibiotics. I kept telling her that I didn't even drink coffee, but she was convinced that my throat and tongue were sore because I had scalded my mouth with coffee. I don't know what medical school she went to, but maybe they need to close it.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Another example of an uneducated moron. [sigh]
>Campus Health Services is about as close to socialism as you can get.
>Clearly this girl was *SICK* - after dealing with paramedics three times over the past 2 months - they don't even ask if you want to be taken to the >hospital - they check your symptomps, strap you up and go.
>Also, ER's cannot turn away a patient based on financial status - so if you're really that sick, you'll be treated, and well. Long-term care (if >needed) is up to you.
>I just f*cking hate it when politics is brought into something that it doesnt need to be - sorry for the rant.

Yes, if you have a couple of bullet holes in your chest, the ER has to treat you regardless of the ability to pay. The bill will also exceed an average mortage in most parts of the country (unless you happen to be an illegal immigrant, in which case the taxpayers will gladly pick up the tab). There was a study released not too long ago that said that medical bills were a factor in about 50% of individual bankruptcy filings. Those weren't all uninsured bums, either. A good proportion of filers had insurance, but accumulated high co-pay bills. As far as long term care goes, you really should change "if needed" to "if you can afford it."

The fact that financial considerations play a major role in the decision whether to go to the hospital is a sign of a barbaric and dysfunctional system.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"She seems a little ditsy to me. I thought most schools required health insurance, but she should probably have read the paper before signing it."

Given the staet of her health, I doubt she was in much of a condition to understand fully whatever it was she was signing.

Personal story. I went to my regular (and now former) GP for pain in my hands. He told me (without x-rays or any other tests) that I had carpal tunnel and that I needed surgery ASAP. I was alarmed and wanted more information and some time to think about it. Later when this developed into a worker's comp case and I finally got sent to a specialist, I learned that the GP had put down that I refused surgery. It also turned out that I didn't have carpal tunnel at all but another syndrome entirely.

Health care personnel can be good, bad, or indifferent. University health care services and their personnel are notoriously bad. Her story isn't all that unusual.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

I find it barbaric that this woman had no friends who cared for her. This is what is most sad about the story.

The other question to ask about the University life is how many people are terrible lonely? WOuld anyone know they had died?

Its real simple. If you are so weak that you cannot get up, you either call a friend and/or dial 911.

I have had friends call me saying they are sick or need help. In two cases I told them to dial 911 and met the paramedics at their residence.

I can agree that some U health centers are a joke, but her BP of 60/50 is an immediate transportable reading - as is any fever of 103 or above. These two readings indicate a probable massive infection - and a simple blood test would have verified this.

The HC staff should be fired. She should contact a lawyer and the University Ombudsman. If the latter does not solve the matter, then a call to her local newspaper and TV station is next along with a call to her local congressional office.

All ER's must take all patients regardless of status. They can then either stabilize and transport to an indigent-care ER or treat and release. All ER's now have triage nurses and no doubt this woman moved to the front of the queue when she got to the hospital.

I was in a major accident two years ago. It required 30 stitches and IV antibiotics - all courtesy of the local ER. My total bill ( after negotiation ) was $800. Since my insurance has a $2000 deductible, I paid it. $800 is not your average mortgage, btw.

And I have been shot twice when I was younger and the bill was about the same. And then there was the Chainsaw. Again, not a mortgage.

As a student at UT, I was dirt poor. But UT required me to have Health Insurance and it was covered under fees when I paid my tuition. I think this is standard at all universities now.

Over 50% of bankruptcy filings are the result of divorce and are usually instigated by the female spouse and are due to financial mismanagement mostly by the male.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Red River: As one of her friends, I couldn't believe that she did not call either... All she had to do was pick up the phone an I would have taken her to the hospital myself.

3:50 PM  
Blogger emHarm said...

also attended the school on the hilltop, visited (thankfully infrequently) the quack shack as well... when i was there, the questions didnt solely relate to birth control or pregnancy, but whatever you went in for, you were given amoxicillin. even for muscle spasms and a pinched nerve, amoxicillin.

and to boot, their MENTAL health assistance was even worse....

8:10 PM  
Blogger Morgaine said...

I can't believe the misogyny of the clinic or of some of the unfeeling posters here. Women are often given substandard care because they are seen as being hysterical or whiny. If she's overweight, she could die in their office and they'd say it was her fault.

Have you ever had a 104 degree fever? It's worse than dropping acid. You trip, you hallucinate, she's lucky she was able to find the damned place. The fact that she didn't do the logical thing is not surprising. She was dying, after all.

I have permanent damage from three cases where I had to go without treatment because I lacked insurance and no one would help me. It is ridiculous for money to be a barrier to obtaining health care. A sane, functional society wouldn't tolerate such conditions - we're one of the few idustrialized nations that has this problem, and the only one in which the infant mortality rate is going UP. Selfishness, greed and hatred of the disadvantaged and disabled are far too common and too well tolerated in America. We should be ashamed.

3:35 AM  
Blogger PerpetualBeginner said...

red river - I'm glad you're bills have been so manageable. My last ER visit also cost me $800, plus another $70 in medication - for a dog bite that barely scratched the surface (it became infected). Similarly for retrieving an eraser that my son had stuck up his nose. Neither incident took more than ten minutes of actual treatment time. That tends to make me a little nervous about what an actual screaming emergency would run at the local ER.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a nurse. I'm appalled at the callousness of folks posting on here. University health care is often VERY bad. Her iv couldn't be started because her bp was so low!Those vital signs would mean an immediate higher intervention to any health professional. The paramedics dropped the ball, too. They should have encouraged her to seek help, despite the cost. Good advice from the poster who said to call a friend, go to your own doctor, or better yet, if you're very ill, call 911. Better safe than sorry!

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wondered about these University medical clinics...
I was reading some posts on another website and women were talking about annual gyn. exams at student health - we don't have routine gyn. exams in Australia - they're considered unnecessary and possibly, harmful.

I couldn't believe what I was reading - women asked to remove ALL their clothing, covered with a "paper sheet" legs in stirrups - their requests for female Dr's ignored or dismissed - male doctors arriving with male assistant - girls being hurt by multiple medical students attempting pelvic exams, doors left open so the girl is in full view...
I cannot imagine anyone remotely professional treating a patient in that sadistic way...
It sounded like a meat processing factory...
Women left traumatic and hysterical...
I hope these things don't happen - if they do, the place should be shut down pending a full enquiry and professional misconduct charges being laid....
I'm sure this isn't unique to the US - I stayed away from the Student health Service at University - it seemed to be nothing but STD checks and contraception....
I'm afraid putting myself through Law School, I had no need for contraception!

8:30 AM  

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