About a month ago I did something I swore I would never do. I feel asleep in my wheelchair, lost my balance, and fell on the floor. I sustained a spinal cord injury almost twenty-four years ago and because of sitting for so long I developed bone density issues and arthritis, particularly in the legs and hips. So falling can be a dangerous thing. Because I lack sensation in a certain capacity I can hurt myself and not know it so it is necessary to have x-rays and a CAT scan to be certain I’m unharmed. This means a trip to the ER.
This is never pleasant for anyone regardless of their situation and if you have spent any time around the medical profession in America you know all hospitals are not created equal. Some are always overcrowded and understaffed, others dirty, some brand new and spotless, some knowledgeable, some not, it runs the gamut. If you have a rare or unusual condition like me, even the doctors themselves may be ill-prepared. If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid and your regular doctor does not have privileges what do you do?
Today I thought I would offer a few strategies on how to navigate the world of the ER should the need arise. Below are a few tips. I hope they help.
- Be clear, concise, and informative from the beginning. If you are being brought in by ambulance or just admitted by the nurse give the EMTs or the Nurses as much direct, important info on your condition. Show them immediately you can control your own care and you are extremely knowledgeable regarding your condition. If you need them to follow certain protocols you use at home for your own safety such as transferring or using the bathroom tell them. If you use a urinary device like Men’s Liberty, tell them. If you need to, ask their level of experience with your condition.
- Be polite, cooperative, and grateful. You catch more flies with honey. ER staff work long hours in a depressing, stressful environment. They are understaffed and underpaid. Many don’t see their families for hours at a time. They are in the business of saving lives, give them a little grace. Say thank you. Show them your gratitude and look for ways to make their job easier. A little goes a long way and if you’re in a tough spot they will go the extra mile to help you.
- Voice ALL your concerns. Be sure you and the doctor or doctors are all on the same page and they all have the same information. Don’t be afraid to remind them of things important to you. Don’t be afraid to ask even the simplest questions and be honest about your fears.
- Know your rights. If you want a second opinion, get it. If a staff member is rude and disrespectful, speak up. It’s your body and your health. Own it.
- Stay calm. Pain and suffering can be stressful. Going to the ER, especially with no idea what is happening can be very frightening. The more you can remain in control the better you will complete steps 1-4 and the safer you will be.
That’s all for this month. I hope it was helpful, that you only have good health, and do not have to visit the hospital. If you do, remember these five steps and you’ll recover well.
Thanks for reading.