‘To turn around to vomit, you were sure you would hit someone with it’

Crohn’s disease sufferer Rachel Hillyard recounts her experience of delays at UHL

Rachel Hillyard initially presented at the University Hospital Limerick on Saturday but decided to go home after she was informed there was a nine-hour wait. Photograph: David Raleigh

Rachel Hillyard initially presented at the University Hospital Limerick on Saturday but decided to go home after she was informed there was a nine-hour wait. Photograph: David Raleigh

 

A woman with Crohn’s disease suffering from painful abscesses that are inflamed when she sits down was being treated on Monday on a chair in the emergency department of University Hospital Limerick (UHL) where a record 92 patients were counted on trolleys.

Rachel Hillyard, a mother of five from Clonlara, Co Clare, initially presented at the hospital on Saturday but decided to go home after she was informed there was a “nine-hour” wait to see a doctor.

She returned at 10am on Monday and, after being triaged and seen by a doctor within an hour, she was five hours waiting on a chair in the cramped and noisy department to see a surgical doctor.

“It’s not very comfortable . . . Sitting on a chair is not the best for me. I have Crohn’s disease and with that comes a lot of perianal abscesses – they’re very uncomfortable and very painful. I’ve no cushion,” she said.

“There’s actually a lot of people sitting on chairs. They seem to have got rid of the trolleys and have put chairs in.”

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‘Horrible’ experience

She recalled a “horrible” experience in the same department last July.

“I came in by ambulance and I was pretty ill with the disease. I spent four days on a trolley in A+E. Even to turn around on the trolley to vomit, you were sure you were going to hit someone with it. It was that packed.

“I had a very bad flare-up and I was incontinent at that time, and I was two days in my own faeces. They [the staff] were just up the bloody walls. They were doing everything they could, there was just so many [patients].

“The two toilets that were closest to me were out of order at the time. With Crohn’s disease, you could be visiting the bathroom 30-40 times in a day, and it’s a matter of urgency. There’s no standing and waiting.”

‘Very sick’

“That was a horrible, horrible experience for me. I had to get in my sister who had to take me [to the bathroom] and wash me. So that was not a nice thing. I have open wounds as well – it was horrible.

“When you are very, very sick like that, you can’t shout loudest to get attention.”

She added: “I just don’t know what the solution is . . . The staff are run off their feet, doing everything they can with the little resources they have, but it’s not doing any good.”

UHL said it could not comment on individual cases but it was “exceptionally busy at present” and it regretted patients were facing excessive wait times for a bed. “Over the weekend, we saw a marked increase in the number of over-75s presenting and requiring admission to hospital,” it added.