Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 Things to Make a Trip to the Emergency Room Easier


When the phone rang at ten pm on a Sunday night, a quavery voice said, "We've had a little accident over here." These few words can send the adrenaline pumping. The first time we got that call, we rushed over to check on Mom who said she'd fallen. She'd crawled from her living room to the bedroom to use the only working phone. The other one broke with her fall. We wondered if we should call an ambulance or just drive her to the hospital to get checked out. We made the wrong decision.

We learned the hard way that it's dangerous to move or transport an injured person. Worse, when we arrived at the emergency room there was a long wait behind others who either looked worse or had arrived by medical transport. She spent a couple of uncomfortable hours on a hard xray table before the doctor arrived at the small town hospital. Mom was admitted with a broken hip.
Another call came on the morning of New Year's Eve before seven am. Mom asked for help getting a shower explaining that she had fallen during the night. She lay on the bathroom floor until morning. The tone of her voice indicated something was very wrong. I should have called an ambulance immediately. Instead, we bundled her up against the January cold and drove her to the emergency room. Again, bad move. The hospital was operating with a skeleton crew due to the holiday. We waited in the ER eight long hours surrounded by patients who were coughing, sneezing or vomiting.
During that time, the staff would not allow Mom to have even an ice chip until the doctor examined her. When her name was finally called, the doctor launched into a lecture about the patient being seriously dehydrated and running a fever. Imagine our response.
When the time comes to go to the hospital, the arriving paramedics will ask about the patient's  medications, their allergies, and medical history before the current emergency. 
Emergency Go Bag
Ambulance drivers want to take the patient's insurance and identification cards with them on the way to the hospital. Giving them a photocopy can avoid the loss of the patient's original cards. Gathering copies of all this info in one place ahead of time can help reduce some of the stress. 
  1. Make a copy of the patient's Medical Insurance Card, front and back. It has the phone number, policy and member's identification number. Put the copy into a Go Bag dedicated for emergencies.
  2. While at the doctor before an emergency grab two of their business cards; one for your wallet and one for the Go Bag.
  3. Create a list of other important phone numbers in case your cell phone battery dies during the wait. You'll want the numbers for their doctors, their minister, out-of-town relatives, friends and neighbors who might be concerned.
  4. Make a list of prescription medications showing the exact dosages and the frequency taken. 
  5. Add a list of known allergies or reactions to medication taken in the past and a list of over-the-counter medicines taken routinely.
When my husband went to the hospital for surgery, he was taking a lot of prescription medications. Rather than try to remember them, we made a list of each medication, its exact strength and dosage frequency. Several printed copies of this list went into the Go Bag. The admissions staff, nurses and doctors were grateful not to have to write it all down by hand. For example:

It's often necessary to provide info about previous hospital stays and the outcome, and whether the patient was admitted, along with a list of all surgeries the patient has undergone.
  • Prepare a List of previous surgeries, the types and the dates, such as,  Appendectomy - 1975; Left Hip, Replacement Surgery - 1991
It's a good idea to ask the patient for this information ahead of time. If they're confused or possibly unconscious you'll have the list available.


Most of the following items are optional for the Go Bag, but they're handy and easy to pick up at the dollar store.
  1. A small tablet for notes and instructions once the doctor arrives.
  2. A good book for long waits at the hospital and to avoid the germ laden, out-of-date magazines in the waiting room.
  3. Bottled water and packaged crackers or cookies. When your wait is long you'll be glad you have this. It never fails, if you leave the room for a minute to go to the cafeteria, that's when a medical person comes in with an update.
  4. Cup of instant soup or protein bars.
  5. Wet wipes and travel size hand sanitizer.
  6. Tissues for tears or runny noses.
  7. A new toothbrush and travel size toothpaste. This is for you.
  8. Packets of sugar or artificial sweetener, salt, pepper, and plastic spoons. Sometimes a vending machine has food but there are no utensils or condiments available.
  9. A clean pair of cotton socks to wear in those cold waiting rooms at the hospital.
If you drive your friend to the hospital, bring along any medical equipment they use. When Dad became critically ill after chemo, he refused to go in the ambulance. We drove him to the emergency room and in our haste, left his portable oxygen at home. The ER was overflowing and he had a dreadfully long wait before they finally admitted him to intensive care. Every gasping breath without his oxygen was a nightmare.

If your friend is admitted and you want to talk with the attending doctor,  sometimes they make their rounds near midnight so you could be waiting a while. Once you've invested hours waiting for X-rays, blood work and other stuff, you'll want to know what's going on.

In the hopeful possibility that your senior is not admitted, you'll want to bring their walker or wheelchair when you follow the ambulance to the hospital. They'll need these when they're released. One final tip just in case you lose the ambulance you're following. Ask the paramedics where they're taking the patient so you'll arrive at the right hospital.
Taking a few moments to assemble a few items into a Go Bag can reduce some of the anxiety that goes with any trip to the hospital. The best hope is that you won't ever need to use it.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for the very good and sound advice. I will put in a prayer for your mom and hope she is up and about soon. I am sure God was watching over her.

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    1. Thank you, Rasma, and thanks for the prayer for Mom. Her second hip surgery was nearly 10 years ago. She's doing pretty well now, thankfully. At nearly 92 years of age, it's a blessing to still have her nearby.

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  2. Such a necessary and informative post, dear Peg.

    I especially love the idea of an Emergency Go bag.

    Please give my love and hugs to the girls.

    Love you too, Maria

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    1. Thanks for stopping in, Maria. Of course, you already know these tips from your training and experience. I appreciate you taking time to come by and read this one. Hugs.

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