Heading for the By-Pass



It’s easy to be negative when surrounded by incompetence, so I am positively enthusiastic in telling you this; last night  a series of events culminated in the saving of a loved one through, above all, competence.

We are only privy to our own perspective so I’ll share this with you and hope that the suits clutching clipboards take note. Last night, on admission to Our Lady of Lourdes A&E, Drogheda, what seemed to me an alien scene met the ambulances’ blue lights. 

We feared the battle that lay ahead as we traveled the near 60km to hospital. Over a dozen previous experiences in as many years planted the seeds for this fear; trolleys in corridors, inadequate pain relief, language barriers etc. It’s funny because you would expect a degenerative heart condition to be scary enough, but if you were to witness missing files and the cross infection hazard of shared monitoring equipment, you would be terrified. And then there are the questions on arrival that have screamed incompetence,  “What did you have for dinner?” What has that got to do with an acute cardiac episode? Turns out the doctor was ready to diagnose indigestion before he was made to read a medical file the size of two golden pages, and got a second opinion. We’ve seen a real snap shot of the health system in this country over the past ten years.

Hospital closures, staff redeployment. The one constant, though, in all this was always the excellent staff and doctors once you got a bed in the C.C.U. but up until last night, A&E was always, without fail, a nightmare. 

So, earlier that night, as the blue lights sped away in the night in the direction of the by-pass, my car having it’s wheel changed on the side of the road, I gathered all my strength for what lay ahead. I was lucky to have company on the journey. We chatted about best and worse case scenarios, commended ourselves for kicking a plan into action as soon as the warning signs presented themselves, all the time building our resilience for the challenges ahead.

In the waiting area many instructions adorn the walls with assurances that all major credit cards are accepted.  The burnt out orange information screen above our heads tries to join in, but I just can’t take it’s tango hued words seriously.

The waiting area is an awkward space, lines of yellow varnished seating a tangent to sporadic white pillars like a game of Tetris; prizes to be won from the wall of vending machines if you remembered to bring the right change in your panic, they don’t take notes. 

But I don’t mind all that, because my loved one is sick and I’m worried about the struggle to get from A&E up to C.C.U. Last Christmas they prepared him for a by-pass, as he lay on the Cat Lab table in the Mater. I remember him telling me that the gifted consultant had announced from behind his gown;

“We can fix this!”

“You’re shitting me”, my loved one replied.

“I shit you not”, the consultant said with confident glee.

And they did fix him, stent number fifteen.


But this is now and the receptionist was beckoning me over from her glass cube, it was time to see him.

He was in good spirits but in a lot of pain. He was in his own cubicle, on his own machines with a wonderful doctor from Belfast, cooly and competently organising his care. 

He told me what I was already mostly familiar with but with one difference, he diagnosed a partial occlusion utilising the E.C.G printout.

I was in shock, he was the first doctor to ever see anything irregular on the E.C.G, that was always the problem. That was always our battle. 

Not only could this angel from medical college see the problem and manage the pain, he also strived to get my loved one to the Mater before midnight!

Of course it was sad seeing him wheeled off in another ambulance, but I knew in my heart that the team waiting for him, who are like family now, would look after him.

My companions and myself returned home to get some rest, and I believed that was the end of the drama for that night. I had been so shocked at how smooth the whole experience, even  questioning one of the paramedics before leaving;

“What’s changed”, I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

“I did radio in, knowing his history, and asked for his file to be ready on admission, he was only in last week for a check up, so it was still upstairs.”

Luck or a new system you be the judge. I’m just documenting my new, never seen before experience of A&E in Drogheda. 

When I got home I rang the Mater before the kettle had boiled. I was put through to one of the paramedics that brought him down. I stuttered something about my contact details and asked who to call in the morning before he stopped me.

“He’s on the table now”.

“Oh wow, right how is he?”

“Actually, no, he’s finished, they put a stent in and he’ll be back to Drogheda in a few minutes”.

And he was, at 2.30 a.m Pat was in bed 5 of the C.C.U with his sixteenth stent, pain free, and thank-full for a compassionate doctor who was on the ball.

Pat is convinced Madiba was looking down on him that evening, and I say no better buachaill!



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