You awake at 7:00am, get out of bed, make your way to the bathroom and look in the mirror. Red blotches and swelling now populate the landscape of your face. You flash on last night; not a raging party. You’re sure because you remember a dinner that consisted of two bowls of cereal and in front of the TV, watching reruns of Seinfeld. Here are the top seven things you should do before (and after) you head to your local emergency room.
1. Ask yourself if today is:
a. Halloween after 2:00pm. If so, every child with a food allergy is there.
b. Any other national holiday. If so, staffing at every medical center is scant.
2. If it’s not one of the occasions mentioned in Item 1, find your insurance cards. You know they’re jammed somewhere in your wallet behind the debit card. Put them your pocket – any pocket.
3. Call a cab or Uber for a ride to an emergency room in a medical center. Do not drive yourself. There’s usually no place to park and whatever you’re suffering from could always get worse.
4. Call a friend/neighbor/old boyfriend/significant other and let someone know you’re going to the emergency room. Ask them to meet you there. Why? Being in an ER can be frightening and a lot to process, even if you’re operating at 100%. A patient in an emergency situation usually only hears a third of what is said by a doctor or nurse. That means you don’t hear the diagnosis completely, nor do you really hear instructions about medication. Have the person you begged to meet you at the emergency room write down everything the doctor or nurse says.
5. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the emergency area of a medical center, you’ll usually be seen by a triage nurse, who’ll assess your situation (i.e., take your blood pressure, check your pulse and other vital signs, etc.). If you’re breathing normally and not clutching your heart, you won’t be the first one called from the waiting room. Plan on a stay of up to 4 hours. That can seem like a long time – and it is. Just know that most visits to an emergency room take this long. If you arrive at the emergency room and notice lots of ambulances delivering patients, it could be even longer.
6. Emergency Room staff may give you medication while you’re on a gurney or in a room, but they will not give you meds to take home. Instead, they’ll give you a prescription to take to a pharmacy. If you’re lucky, there will be one onsite at the facility you visited. But you might want to bring along the number of your regular pharmacy.
7. Once you’re home or at work and your blotches are beginning to lessen from bright red to soft pink, call your internist and make an appointment. ER docs are amazing, lifesaving professionals, but they don’t really know you and have put together your medical history from a brief conversation during your ER visit. Your internist will record this incident in your file and will eventually figure out why the blotches appeared in the first place.