Ever since I got off dialysis, I've had to have a full set of kidney labs done every three months. I get very anxious waiting for the results.
A week ago last Friday, I went to the lab and had blood drawn early in the morning, and then went about my day. Some old college friends were going to pick me up in the evening, drive to a huge lake in northern Minnesota, and rent a houseboat for two nights. We've done this before and it's a lot of fun (although I am not in charge of steering....).
I got back to my place a few minutes before they were scheduled to arrive. It was 5:30 and there was a message on my phone: "This is Dr. Wheeler's office. We have extremely critical lab results and you need to contact us right away." I felt the color drain from my face. the caller had not identified herself, nor left a number. I called the nephrology number and, of course, they were closed for the weekend. My pulse was throbbing with the panic. I wondered what "critical" lab result meant? Was I dying? Did I need to go back on dialysis?
My friends arrived and between sobs I told them they should leave without me because I didn't want to have a medical emergency happen on the middle of Lake Mille Lacs.
I decided to go to the ER that my clinic system is affiliated with. By the time I caught a bus, it was dark. I do not see well in the dark due to laser treatments ten years ago.
I got off at the stop and stumbled along the bumpy sidewalk to the hospital's main door. "This door closes at 9 p.m." "Stay calm", I muttered, and edged my way around the perimeter of the building and finally found the ER.
I told the triage nurse about the message and she asked which lab result they had referred to. Well, the message didn't say. She told me to have a seat until a room opened up. In the meantime, a man came in whose lawnmower had exploded in his face, and a girl who had been hit in the jaw with a softball bat and was screaming in pain.
3 hours later I was taken to a room. 90 minutes after that, the doc comes in and said, "well, there are some notes here about your potassium being low and for you to increase your supplement to 40 mEq per day and have a new draw on Monday". "That's it?" Man I was starting to get really mad. "That's it - I have no idea why she didn't leave that message on the phone. Oh, and we have a special nurse line number that you could have also called to get this info."
I called a cab at 2 a.m. to take me home. The ER concierge, an elderly gentleman, said I should save the message and gave me the name of someone to contact in Patient Relations, which I did. All she could do was apologize - for a lost weekend and an enormous copayment for a nonadmissison ER visit. Sh-t.