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.