Monday, August 9, 2010

Is It An Emergency?

On the Australian Screen website, I watched a video clip from the documentary Errands of Mercy. The documentary is about ambulance workers, and in that particular clip, they talk about people wasting their time. People call ambulances when they could have driven themselves to the hospital, called a cab, or had a friend/family member take them.

It made me think about how we had used an ambulance when Jack broke his arm in Chicago. I don't know why we used one; if we really needed to use one, why we didn't just call a cab; and whether or not we were the ones who called the ambulance in the first place. I kind of wish we HADN'T used one, because it cost us a fair amount of money. A cab would have been much cheaper.

The ambulance ride was nice though. I mean it wasn't a lovely excursion, or anything. But the three of us were panicked and quite terrified. It was nice having professionals there to take charge.

Did we waste the time of emergency personnel?

Maybe.

But I think it's a hard call sometimes.

Earlier this morning, I read a bit of the news. There was a tragic story from the UK. A young woman died of Meningitis. I don't understand it fully, but from what I can gather, her doctor refused to give her the diagnosis, and the needed antibiotics.

Stuff like that happens. Someone is sick. They're not taken seriously, and they end up dying because they didn't get the needed medical treatment.

Then sometimes someone looks deathly ill. They might think they're having a heart attack. The ambulance is called. The person is given time and attention from medical professionals. Then it ends up they just had really bad gas. They give a loud burp or fart, and they're better. How embarrassing.

But I'm betting there are people who don't get the help they need BECAUSE they thought they just had gas or indigestion.

I'm really not sure what I'm trying to say here.

I'm not one of those people who go to the doctor with every little suspicious symptom. I'm probably lean more towards the other end of that spectrum. But there HAVE been times I imagined I had an emergency, and sought help. One was when I was pregnant with Jack. I thought I was going into premature labor, called my friend in the wee hours of the morning, and had her drive me to the hospital. It ended up being a false alarm. That was a bit embarrassing. Yeah. But I think it's better to be a bit embarrassed than end up having a preemie birth emergency at home.

Another time I had a medical panic was when I thought Jack had Meningitis. He had been sick with a fever, and then complained his head and neck hurt. I freaked out, and called the doctor. I may be imagining things, but I felt the nurse on call seemed annoyed with me....exasperated. Or maybe not. I can't really remember. But at the very least, I don't remember her being warm and reassuring.

Fortunately, in my panic-moments, it was all for nothing. Well, the injured arm did turn out to be something...but that was fixable.

In the video clip from the documentary, an elderly woman has called the ambulance because she has a lingering headache from the fall. I guess it turned out to be benign. That's good.

Did she waste the time of the ambulance workers? I guess so.

But what if she hadn't been fine?

What if she had a cerebral hematoma?

You know what....

Everyone makes mistakes.

But I'd say it's much better when it's the patient who makes the mistake....thinking they have a serious ailment when they don't; than having a doctor make the mistake of dismissing life-threatening symptoms. Go home. You're fine.

Once Tim was out of town, and the house alarm woke up me and Jack. I was terrified. I locked us into the bedroom and waited for the alarm people to call. Usually, when they call, it's because I've forgotten to turn off the alarm before going outside. But this time was different. The dispatcher phone person asked for our password and all that. I am pretty damn sure I sounded confused and terrified. She asked if I needed them to send the police, but it was as if she expected me to say no. Then she seemed a bit put off my the fact that I said yes, please send the police.

The police officer came after awhile. He checked the whole house. He was VERY nice. Unlike the woman on the phone, he didn't make me feel stupid for being scared and worried about an intruder.

It turned out to be a false alarm, but the policeman didn't give me grief about that. Instead, he encouraged me to not let this incident discourage me from calling in the future. I think that was very nice of him, and it's too bad more rescue type folks aren't like that.

I do understand it's better sometimes if people find alternate transportation to the hospital, but it's not always possible. Some people don't have cars and if they do, they might not be okay enough to drive. Sometimes it's not easy to find a cab. And sometimes people do NOT have friends and family nearby who are eager and willing to help. Sad...yes. But sometimes true.