Thursday, February 16, 2012

10 Things I Learned from a Couple of Days in the ER

The last few days were interesting to say the least.  I ended up in the emergency room of my local hospital for a couple of days.  Fortunately everything worked out fine, but I noted quite a few things about said experience that doesn't bode well for TEOTWAWKI--let alone a simple disaster--especially for us prepper types...
  1. You read that right, I was in the ER for a couple of DAYS because the hospital didn't have a single room available for admitted patients which left everyone who came through the ER and was admitted to languish in the ER.  Note that most hospitals are overcrowded.
  2. This typical ER, on a typical day, in a good sized city was PACKED.  There were patients stacked up rooms, in treatment bays, in hallways, in the ambulance bay.  Over the course of a couple of days I noted that mornings were OK but by mid afternoon, there was a maze of people that health care providers had to traverse just to get form point A to point B.  (So guess what a typical ER will look like after a major disaster...).
  3. The food was...barely this side of atrocious.  Food is critical to healing so it kind of shocked me that the food would be so lousy.
  4. The patients in this ER were also unpleasant, for lack of a better term.  There were plenty of "normal" people but there were also plenty who were: whacked out on drugs, obviously mentally ill, had their own police escort/were handcuffed to their bed/had a police guard, sounded (and looked!) contagious, had illnesses of indeterminate nature, had a range of illnesses and was basically a petri dish of social and medical issues that one probably wouldn't want to be around if one had a choice.
  5. Medical care doesn't come quickly.  Because there were so many people and a limited amount of staff and diagnostic tools, everyone had to wait in line for everything--to be admitted, to get a room, to see a doctor, to have blood work done, to have an MRI or CAT scan, etc.
  6. Medical care doesn't come cheaply.  Fortunately I have insurance but I am guessing my little stay there cost upwards of $10,000.  I had five specialists peek in on me and I am sure each one will send my insurance company a hefty bill, and none actually did anything save for ask me repetitive this point they didn't even have any diagnostic tests to consult!  But they all got their patient visit in for billing purposes.
  7. The staff is overworked (12 hour shifts were typical...who wants to have a nurse on hour 11?) and the hospital appeared to be short staffed.  I am not sure if this is due to budgetary reasons or due to lack of staff available to be hired but it impacts patient care and it impacts the quality of the environment (ie: the few restrooms for patients in the ER were rarely cleaned...the perfect place to spread germs in an environment where you really don't want that to happen).
  8. Emergency room care is good for specific medical emergencies like trauma.  When you are an ER doctor, everything looks like a heart attack or stroke.  They ruled out these two options for me so I ended up leaving with the same symptoms I arrived with.  ER care is very good for trauma injuries--the docs are great at seeing body parts that are out of place and putting them back  in place--but not so much for non-specific medical problems.
  9. You are pretty much on your own so prepare accordingly.  The BOB came in handy when I ended up staying overnight for what I thought would be a brief visit.  If I needed something I went in search of it myself since the staff was so busy (note that people who aren't so ambulatory should bring someone with them to the ER to help them out). You may get lost in the shuffle so speak up if necessary (the nurse said I was "up next" for a MRI and six hours later she was surprised I hadn't been called yet; when it was time to be discharged I stuck to the nurse like glue so I could sign out quicker instead of waiting hidden--and forgotten--in my room).
  10. If you have a medical issue, do seek medical treatment quickly.  With somewhat of a medical background and some research online I was fairly certain what my problem was (actually a problem shared by hundreds online yet without a definitive diagnosis) so I went in kind of already knowing what the outcome would be BUT with high-tech diagnostic equipment available, it would have been stupid of me to eschew such medical care just because I had used Google and came to a conclusion about my problem.  Of course the problem could have been something serious so if you have a problem it behooves you to seek competent medical advice and testing no matter what Google says.
Overall, this was an eye-opening experience since I have actually never been sick, other than a self-treated cold or flu, in my entire life.  Never a broken bone, stitches, any sort of medical tests, etc. so I will chalk this up as a learning experience (and a reminder that during a disaster, medical care may end up being a do-it-yourself sort of thing for all but the most major problems).


  1. I am a ER nurse....everything you stated here is 100% correct! I should print this out and give it to everyone.

  2. Welcome to the self-chosen world of US medical care. Why not join the civilized world of universal health care? While our system may not be perfect, they are better than your disaster.

    I don't envy you at all.