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Call For Help

When I ask a new patient what brought them to the hospital that day, I of course get many different answers. I get a lot of “I woke up with chest pain at 3am and came in.” When I ask how they came in, I get a variety of answers, the worst being, “I had my wife/husband drive me.” No, no wait – the worst is “I drove myself.”

Now, as perfectly healthy people driving around, do any of you feel comfortable sharing the road with someone possibly having a heart attack? I think not. You see, to simplify things, a heart attack is when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen. When deprived of oxygen, the heart muscle begins to die. If a certain area of the heart begins to die, the person not only feels chest pain, diaphoresis (sweating), short of breath, etc. – their heart may go into a fatal rhythm. A rhythm not conducive to safe driving. Or driving at all.

So while the patient started out with a mere heart attack, he may end up with a car accident to boot…. not only taking out himself, but possibly others.

There are many reasons to call for an ambulance. Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke are high on that list. Another equally important reason to call for an ambulance is as Kim at Emergiblog touched upon in a recent post. An ambulance is a mini ER on wheels. People who know what they’re doing come to your house and start taking care of you WHILE transporting you to a place that you need to be. They have nitroglycerin, IV fluids, EKG’s and can start to diagnose and treat your condition en route. And if your heart stops beating, they can try to shock it back to life right there. Last I checked, defibrillators had not been added as options on modern cars.

If you feel as though you are having a heart attack or stroke, definitely don’t drive yourself to the hospital. Don’t have your spouse drive you. Please call 911 to get an ambulance. It could save your life and the lives of others.

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Did you know you can buy defibrilators on ebay? They are idiot proof apparently. hmm

I have heard several friends say their fathers were “too embarrassed” to call an ambulance, or second guessed their symptoms (a little jalapeno? I am man enough to take it!)

I was in the ER waiting room for pelvic pain and saw a man arrive being driven by his wife. The ER team had to resuscitate him on the cement in the parking lot.

Later, the tech wheeling me to ultrasound got a page to do a transfer to the morgue. It was that gentleman. The tech shook his head, saying they lose too many people who think they are well enough to drive themselves, or to simply have a spouse drive them because otherwise they would feel they had “inconvenienced” the EMTs and “leave the ambulance for ‘real’ emergencies.” If only they had known.

Thank you for the service annoucement!

And yet, home many of us have seen people call 911 and request EMS transport for a headache? Why is it that there are people who will use EMS for totally bogus reasons, yet the ones with legitimate need, “don’t want to bother them” because they, “didn’t know if it was an emergency.”

Then, there are the people who are told to direct admit to the ICU who call hours later and ask if they really need to come in. They are really busy and ask if they can come in tomorrow?? ARGH!!!

Gang, we don’t even need to bother with those pesky ambulances anymore. There was an article in the Los Angeles Times last Friday that stated, ‘BLS certification indicates that a person has demonstrated ability to revive a person whose heart has stopped.’ Gee, if that were the case this whole discussion would be moot since nobody would need to call 911, would they?

Seriously, go read this thing. A manager at King/Drew Medical Center allegedly either gave away or sold Healthcare Provider renewal cards – not ACLS, but BLS – and these two reporters are simply shocked that anyone who came to their ED is still alive. But they also believe that CPR alone ‘revives’ someone in asystole, and I’m sure everyone here is glad that ACLS is no longer necessary.


I’m a former BLS Instructor-Trainer who administered an AHA Training Center for 5 years, and I actually emailed these two reporters begging them to clarify this assertion. I haven’t heard back. Clearly the two reporters have never taken a BLS class. Maybe they should, if only to learn the limits of the procedure.

I hope I’m not overreacting, but I was both amused and irritated. Now I’ve got it off my chest and I feel… not quite as irritated. ;-)

The saddest thing are the brain-dead patients and their families who keep asking “why didn’t we?”

Had you ever thought about those patients not calling the ambulance because of the increasing rate or lack there of in health care coverage? I mean there are plenty of poeple who will say I might need to save that $125 dollars, I can just drive myself. Majority of the time, that is the case. Also many people are not educated enough as far as their health is concerned. I believe that more health maintaince information as well as public awareness should be offered to the citizens in the country we reside. What do you think?

a great point. i only send via ambulance the most worrisome patients that show up at my office complaining of chest pain. otherwise, there would be 3-4 ambulances leaving our office each day. it’s a gamble at times, an i do admit to taking a few risks.

interesting reading that entry, i work in A+E in the uk where some people will call an ambulance for a cold and then like tonight others will drive the 30 or so miles to the department all the while having a full blown thrombolysable MI. there is a huge need for health education the world over. who knows, the next time i get a time waster maybe we ought to charge?

I definitely see the problem, but I think some of the posters aren’t seeing it from the patient’s perspective – I bet most people just have no idea what pains they should seriously worry about and what pains they shouldn’t. That’s why you get some people calling the ambulance for a headache and others driving themselves in for chest pain. Because for all they know, a headache means an aneurysm and chest pain means they pulled a muscle in their ribcage.

I want to follow up on what Bryan said on Nov. 8, 2005. I suffered a stroke last year. I was only 34 at the time. I’ve had a few operations to repair damage since then.

My wife, son and I were on vacation about six weeks ago, getting ready to come back home. I reached into his crib to pick him up one morning, put him on the changing table, and asked my wife to take him. I suddenly had a terrible headache. My wife took our son and got him breakfast and came back to check on me. The headache was so bad I was sure I was having another stroke. I asked her to call an ambulance.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was right. I went by ambluance to the nearest hospital, where they were able to give me a CT scan but there was no doctor that could treat me. I needed an interventional neuroradiologist, and the nearest one was at a trauma hospital 30 minutes away by ambulance. I was transferred after six hours in the ER at the first hospital.

Fortunately for me, there was no damage done other than the onset of some really bad headaches–this time. Last year I went through a whole summer of PT, OT and Speech Therapy. This time it’s almost like it never happened.

But please don’t dismiss a headache as a non-emergency. When I was first diagnosed with an AVM 13 years ago, my parents asked my doctor how I’d know if I was having a stroke. His reply: “Oh, he’ll know it. It’ll be the biggest headache he’s ever had.”

It sure as hell was.

So, what brought you to the hospital today?

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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