Without going into too much detail, I’ve being having some treatments done as an outpatient in a clinic at a well known London hospital (that shall remain nameless!). The clinic is nurse led—although the initial consultation to make sure you are eligible for treatment is done by a consultant (with good credentials: I checked them!). After several weeks of treatment, it was decided that we would move onto the next step- which was using a different medication.
"Brilliant!", I said... Oh how wrong was I?
After a few queries about other medication I may or may not be taking, if I was pregnant and other standard questions (are you a monkey?) etc., they decided it was fine to go ahead.
Well, not the doctor. The nurse decided that it would be fine. I do not believe they consulted the doctor at all. I was aware from the start that we would begin using a different medication and I do trust the nurses. They are not these "nurse practitioners" that you hear so much about these days—they were senior staff nurses in the clinic I was attending. They are always the ones who carry out the treatments. They know what they are doing.
So I had the first treatment with the new med in it and everything was fine. Yes, I felt like shit for a day or so, but it passed with no real problems. Then four days later (remember that four as it is very important), I had another treatment with the same medication.
I jumped on the Tube home and realised that I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it properly, but something was wrong with me. Very wrong. I felt like my entire body was fighting against itself, I wasn’t happy.
Again, without going into too much detail- I had a whole range of bizarre symptoms appear that should not have been happening. What the fuck was wrong with me?
I looked up the medication in the BNF online (a pharmacist friend loaned me his login details). Every symptom I had was listed in the BNF as a side effect of the drug I had been given, and I was in quite a lot of distress and discomfort.
I tried to call the clinic at the London hospital, but it was already closed for the day. Very useful.
I called my GP—she agreed with me: it sounded like I hadn’t reacted to the medication very well, and that if I didn’t start to feel better within an hour, I should go to A&E and have them give me something to reverse it. Jesus Christ, how could something so simple turn into this?
Anyway, luckily for me that it did start to resolve itself—slowly—over the course of the evening, but I still wasn’t feeling right. I went to see my GP the following day, but it was, unfortunately, a different GP from the one whom I had spoken to on the phone the previous evening.
He checked me to make sure I was generally OK, which I was—just very uncomfortable. After some research, he found that the reason I was feeling so awful, was effectively because I was being poisoned. He found out what I needed to take to reverse it and wrote it up. Then we had a chat.
Turns out, although the medication they had given me would probably make me feel slightly unwell, it should have been nowhere near as bad as it was. We consulted the BNF again...Treatment not to be repeated within seven days.
Right, so I had a repeat treatment four days after the initial one. Very clever. I had questioned the nurse on this one at the time, when she said, "Hmm...yes, I’m sure four days in between will be just fine. See you then." I should have stuck to my guns!
So I suppose, effectively, I had overdosed on some really quite powerful medication without even realising—well done me. Well done nurses at the hospital. Not.
I’m all for nurse led clinics—but I really think I should have been given more information about the medication I was going to be given. On calling the next day to speak with them, I was simply told to "drink more water and you’ll feel better" when clearly this was not the correct advice.
I also think that, though nurse led clinics are a good idea, the minute medication needs to be administered it should be overseen by a doctor to ensure that mishaps like this don’t happen.
I just consider myself lucky that it was nothing life threatening and that everything is going to be OK. Well, once everything gets out of my system.
Another triumph for the dumbed down NHS then...