Wednesday, January 2, 2008

ER Survival Guide


I've been thinking about the Emergency Room a lot lately and not for the reasons that you might imagine. While I know it's perfectly normal to think about where you work, I'm not really looking at it in that way. It's been an odd week. All hypochondria aside I really did think something was seriously wrong when my chest hurt so bad. The Film Geek has been sick. Someone I work with closely and absolutely adore has been in our ICU on a ventilator for the last week with an out of the blue condition that has a 40 to 70% mortality rate. Yes, you read that right - 40 to 70 - and although she seems to have turned a corner in a very positive way, it ain't over yet. And to top it all off, there is a seriously nasty respiratory bug going around that goes from zero to a hundred in no time flat and is just knocking people on their butts.


It's officially flu season. Whee...


It's a funny thing about the ER (or ED, as in department, as it's now pretty much called). None of us think we're going to end up there. We certainly don't think our family or kids will. And because we don't expect it, a lot of people are completely unprepared when they do. Yet this is one area where a little bit of foresight could make a big difference down the road. It's amazingly easy to forget something as simple as your own birthday when you're in the back of an ambulance with an oxygen mask on because you can't breathe.


So in light of that I'm offering a couple of suggestions on how to make any potential ER trip the best experience it can be. For what it's worth...



Make a list of all your medications. Write down what you take, how many milligrams it is and when you take it. Include vitamins and herbal supplements. List your allergies on the same sheet of paper. Also put the name of the pharmacy you use to fill your prescriptions in case of any questions. Now put this list in your wallet or purse and carry it with you. (We have the FG's list on one side of the paper and mine on the other and we each have a copy of this sheet).



One of the first things you will be asked is what meds you take, and it is critical that the correct information is given. Your nurse will roll her eyes at you when you tell her you take your pink pill in the morning and your little yellow water pill at night, but that you don't know what either of them are called or how long you've been taking them. Please don't poke the nurse. She's cranky - and getting crankier by the second.


List all your medical conditions and surgeries. This can be on the same paper or a different one. I think different is better, but that's just me. This will simplify your life enormously, both in the ER and if, god forbid, you get admitted to the hospital. Here's my take on this - you're going to be asked the same questions over and over again by a whole bunch of people. If you have a list that can be copied and put on your chart, you a) make everyone's life easier, including your own and b) reduce the chance of something crucial being overlooked. Don't be a sheep. Be proactive in your own care if you can.


Tell the truth. I'm fully aware that this is easier said than done, but it's important. Don't say you don't smoke or drink or do drugs if you really do. If you aren't taking your prescribed meds the way you're supposed to, don't say you are. I hate to make generalizations here, but the big one is Viagra (no pun intended). For a drug that seems to make so many people so happy, it is flat loaded with really nasty side effects, most of them occurring within twenty four hours of taking the med. For your own sake, admit that you've taken it and lets move on. No one is going to make any assumptions about anything you do. We're too busy anyway, and if we want someone to laugh at we're going to go straight for the woman who came in for a pregnancy test because Walgreens was closed and she couldn't wait until the morning.


ICE - this is more a pre-hospital thing than the ER, but it's still useful. Paramedics and police officers will need to contact someone if you're in an accident, or if you can't speak for yourself. One way they do this is with cell phones. There's a push to get people to program an ICE number into their phone - In Case of Emergency. That's even how they suggest you do it, simply as ICE. Couldn't hurt, as far as I'm concerned, especially with kid's cell phones.


Know your options. If you're lucky enough to live in an area with more than one major medical center, you might want to have some sort of an idea of which one you would prefer. If you go to your local ER and end up being transferred out to a specialist, you may very well be asked if you have a preference on where you want to go. (You may not, too, depending on what specialist you need and where they practice). It's a good think to have thought of ahead of time.


Women really are different. Yeah, I know. Duh. I also know that no one reading this blog is a day over twenty one, so just feel free to skip this last part. But if you've ever worried about cardiac issues, it really is important to know that women can have very different symptoms of a heart attack than those that are "typical" in men. It doesn't hurt to know what they are.


Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. Don't fix your hair or do your make-up if something serious is going on. If you can help it, don't drive. Call an ambulance if you need to. That's why they're there. Don't worry about going to the hospital and "looking stupid" if nothing is wrong. We'll be thrilled if nothing is wrong, believe me.


Okay, I'm done. The Cranky nurse is officially stepping off of her soapbox.

23 comments:

ped crossing said...

Good to know. I hadn't thought of the whole list thing for medicines and stuff. I know what I take, but not the mg.

We did the ICE thing, but we put a space in front of it so it comes up first on the list.

Now lets hope we never need to know this stuff.

Mya said...

Happy New Year RC!

Lots of very useful info there - it's good to be prepared. Hope you're feeling better yourself too.

Mya x

PixelPi said...

Excellent info, RC. I have ICEd my phone (and Mr. Pi's), and have a typed list of meds, dosages, doctors, phone numbers, just so if I'm unconscious you guys can go through my purse looking for the list amid the used Kleenex, ballpoint pens that haven't worked for years, etc. to find it.

The other reason to make these lists is that if you arrive at the ED screaming in pain from a broken femur, you're not going to feel like answering all of RC's questions. At least until you've slapped her around enough until she gives you pain meds first.

I hope everybody takes this advice. It could save your life. Literally.

Flowerpot said...

very good advice RC - thanks for that constructive start to 2008.

laurie said...

not cranky at all. very good advice. and you're right; we don't think we'll ever be the one rushed down to ER. i know which hospital is closest to our house, but frankly i don' know which hospital is the best. i've lived in the twin cities 15 years and never had any cause to be in a hospital. that, i assume, will change at some point.

how are you doing, by the way? have your chest pains gone away?

i think i'll send this blog posting to my 80-year-old mom.

Eileen said...

I appreciate this list more than you know. Seriously, it is very helpful. It is so hard to remember all the medications everyone is taking, much less my own. I have been freaking out lately about the chest pains too. My mom had her first stroke in her early 40's, so I have huge anxiety about myself. I appreciate the link. I hope you feel better.
XOXOX

Jen said...

Having spent a ridiculous amount of time in ERs as a kid, most of this stuff I already know, but it's really useful! I didn't have an ICE number programmed into my phone, but I do now. I also made a list of important info for TFYO, which I should have done sooner. Thanks for the nudge, dear!

Happy New Year, RC! (And that is Nurse Ratchet in that photo, right? That's not just a lack of sleep catching up to me?)

Lil Mouse said...

i can see how that would all be useful. I recently put my hubby in my cell phone as AAEmergency. you never know when it will come in handy. i agree about NOT caring what you look like. if you're really in that big of trouble, you SHOULDNT care what you look like. when my appendix did it's thing and my temp finally spiked after 10 days, i told my hubby to go shower. i couldnt even move i was shivering so hard my teeth were chattering. my temp went up real high, by then, someone finally took me seriously. if i'd gone in with only 101 temp maybe i'd have been turned away (ignored,again) so i'm kind of glad HE did go ahead and shower.. but i wish also that he'd have showered in the morning and avoided the whole thing.. what is it with guys not wanting to get clean first thing on the weekend? ick. it could have been worse, i could easily have been home alone and i probably would have stuck it out til he came home and fried my brain with fever.. except i was smart enough to be checking about once every hour since they said.. if it goes over 101 go to the emergency room.. so maybe not...

Kaycie said...

Great idea, RC. Everyone needs this info!

Potty Mummy said...

Thanks for the pointers RC - it's all too easy to forget that if you have to go to hospital you may not actually be in a position to remember paltry things like your medicine...

Akelamalu said...

Thanks for the tips Correspondent they are really useful. No-one wants to end up in ER but if it happens it's best to be prepared.

Sweet Irene said...

That's very useful information, RC, I'll get on it right away.

And by the way, I haven't wished you a Happy New year yet, so here by I do. May all your dreams come true.

Dumdad said...

Happy New (and healthy) Year to you!

Marti said...

Hey RC!

Nice blog. All of the things that you completely forget when you are in a panic. Hope you are having a great week.

We really miss you guys too!

Kimberly said...

Great info, RC! Thanks!

Thalia's Child said...

Awesome list!

What about symptoms of stroke? We used to get a lot of stroke patients at the hospital I worked at that didn't even realize what was going on.

aims said...

I've had this list in my purse for about half a year now...what I don't have on it though is my pharmacist..good idea..and I don't have ICE on my phone - but I will right after I finish this comment...thanks RC!!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Thank you, Cranky Nurse, for a very informative post. I'll have to think about the ICE number. I have no family nearby and hubby works in London during the week.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

And Happy New Year, by the way.

Diana said...

So, so true!

Also, I'd add that if you've a parent(s) or neighbor that looks to you, have their medical info in your purse as well, in case they go to the ER without their card 'o info, you can supply it.

Also, if you go to a clinic with scary symptoms rather than the ER, a nurse or doc or BOTH may well recommend that you be to the ER (often via ambulance) as an outpatient clinic is not the place for an emergent, life-threatening condition. That suggestion is not made for our amusement but because it's in your best interest. Please go with the EMTs and don't give us grief. Pretty please, with sugar.

Happy New Year, RC. Here's to a more sensible 2008.

Stacie said...

Thanks for the reminder to get my stuff in order! I hadn't really thought of the medicine list, either!

ciara said...

great tips, r.c. i already do some of these things...i have a card w meds on it, an advance directive that's been notarized, and keep anything medical related relative handy....i still need to do the ice numbers for the kids(myself, too).

Jo Beaufoix said...

Great inofrmation here RC. I have ICE in my phone already, but I don't think Mr B does. Ped crossings idea is good about putting the space in front. I'll have to try that.