Emergencies don't upset your life every day, thank goodness, but they do happen. You're slicing tomatoes for dinner, get distracted, and put a gash in your hand that requires stitches. Your tree-climbing kid takes a tumble from a high branch. Or your spouse steps on a rusty nail while cleaning out the garage. These and similar scenarios can mean a trip to the local emergency room. What do you need to know to help save time and get the care you need during your next unexpected ER trip?
Does your home seem less accommodating than it used to? Join the club. That tends to happen as we age. Toilets are suddenly too low, cabinets too high, and steps and loose rugs make getting around perilous, especially if you have stiff, arthritic joints. Karen Kassik discovered this in 2002, when she brought her then 66-year-old mother to live in her two-bedroom home in Winter Park, Fla.
"I found out very quickly how inadequate this little house was," she recalls.
Kassik, 45, used her background...
Come prepared. "The most important thing is to come equipped with a good history," Lewis Kohl, MD, chairman of emergency medicine at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., tells WebMD. "Know about all the medications you're taking, and which dose for each."
Wait it out. The average patient spends 3.2 hours in the emergency room. That includes time spent not only with the doctor, but also waiting. Be patient, but if you feel too much time is passing, by all means approach the nurses' station and speak up. "It doesn't hurt to ask questions. ERs do get busy, and people can be lost in the shuffle," says Kohl.
Be alert. Ask questions, get names. If you have a drug or latex allergy, make sure that you say it, over and over. Serious mistakes happen even in the best of situations. If a nurse is about to attach a bag of fluid to your IV or presents a medication for you to take, ask what it is and what it's for. If you know that you are waiting for a test and it's been a while since it was ordered, remind staff that you are waiting.
Power off. Cell phones, BlackBerry handhelds, and the other electronic essentials of life "can wreak havoc with the signal for medical equipment," says Joshua Kugler, MD, chairman of the emergency services department at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., who advocates turning them off while in the treatment area.