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LETTER: Four-day stay at overcrowded Southlake 'quite literally nightmarish'

'Our nurses can't take on much more, says a letter writer after a 'traumatic' experience at the Newmarket hospital, while encouraging people to do what they can to stay healthy
Southlake Regional Health Centre. File photo/Greg King for NewmarketToday

NewmarketToday welcomes letters to the editor at Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication).

Re: Southlake at Capacity: 'Jampacked' rapid assessment unit is among busiest at Newmarket hospital, Sept. 13; Southlake at Capacity: Finding room for moms, babies 'like a chess game', Aug. 27; Southlake at Capacity: Surgeons 'make do' with outdated operating rooms, Aug. 18; Southlake at Capacity: Hallway health care routine in 'chaotic' emergency department, Aug. 9.

Thank you for your series about Southlake Regional Health Centre.

I recently spent four days in the hospital and I felt the need to share my experience with you, not for sympathy or attention, but in hopes of encouraging others to do everything they can to stay healthy and safe and out of the hospital.

On the first day I spent 12 hours in the ER, hooked up to an IV. This was tolerable, though exhausting. I was finally sent home with pain meds.

I returned, pain increasing the following day. This time I waited in the ER, hooked to an IV the entire night until I was admitted. Test after test I waited.

When I finally got a chance to sleep on a bed (by pure luck), I felt hope a room would soon come, but that was very naive.

Throughout the night I heard crying and screaming and beeping.

When you’re alone and in pain and exhausted, I can’t tell you how overwhelming this can all be.

My pain meds and kind nurses were the only thing that got me through without crying that night.

When I woke the next day, I was moved to the acute area. I thought surely things would speed up now.

Again, I underestimated how much our health-care heroes are still dealing with.

I laid all day in the hallway of the acute area — my bed flush to the nurses station. The beeping and bustle was louder. The lights intense. And I was completely exposed to every passerby(cops, patients, families, security, cleaning staff) as I battled through my pain.

My own nurse that morning was sick with a cold but had come in because she knew they needed help. Imagine trying to do your job while feeling horrible yourself.

Twelve hours passed as I waited to hear from doctor, anyone. The patient beside me cried out “help me” for 10 minutes straight. I got up to see if I could do anything.

A man coded and I watched from my bed as nurses ran, including my own, to resuscitate him.

My nurse was so busy I only spoke up when the pain got unbearable or when I finally broke down and cried, too.

Most of those around me couldn’t get out of bed to go to the washroom, so nurses would raise blankets around them for them privacy as they used a bedpan.

I was finally seen by a doctor and put on prep for a colonoscopy. This meant I would need to clear out my system while exposed in the hallway. I’ll spare you the details, but this is was more than humbling.

As night fell, I begged my nurse to put me in a dark corner. Any place where I could try to sleep for a bit. She was a rock star and found a place for me, tucked away against a wall that was falling apart.

They were still unable to find me a room, or even a pillow, but at least I could finally breathe. I put my AirPods in to try to block out the cries and beeps and screaming.

I’m not ungrateful, I promise you that, but I am heartbroken.

I’m heartbroken over my experience and the experience of those around me — including the nurses and doctors.

If you’ve never spent much time in a hospital, it’s easy to brush off what it might be like. But this is no Grey’s Anatomy fantasy.

It is quite literally a nightmarish place to be.

I am finally home and waiting for results here. I am still in pain but I couldn’t bear to take up any more room. There are people far sicker than I.

No, this isn’t about getting the vaccine. Though, I think it’s important. It’s about doing everything you can to protect yourself and take care of yourself.

We need people to stay out of the hospital if they don’t need to be there.

Our nurses can’t take on much more.

And I won’t soon forget how traumatic the experience was.

Kellie Anderson, Newmarket