Be an ER + ICU Patient: My Experience + Tips to Prepare
With the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic upon us, many of us fear what a visit to the emergency room (ER) or the intensive care unit (ICU) might mean.
My late daughter, Constance’s, health meant we visited and stayed at both ER and ICU units at multiple hospitals.
Here is what we found helpful in navigating those visits. I am not a medical professional; this is just what worked for us. This is only my opinion. Please listen to the advice and instructions of experts such as your personal physician and emergency response personnel.
Keep a one-page, large-font information sheet. It should include your (or your loved one’s) diagnosis, allergies, all medications with doses, healthcare providers (with their contact information), and next of kin. If you have access to a laminator at home, you can laminate the information sheet so it’s easy to clean after use.
Whenever I updated the sheet, I printed new copies and emailed a current copy to myself, Constance’s father, Constance’s Lola and Papa, and anyone else who might need it.
With the information sheet, medical professionals can easily access information in an emergency and, if you are outside of your medical network or unable to recall or relay the information, it can still be retrieved without hassle.
Medical Alert Bracelet
Medical alert bracelets are simple ways to communicate diagnosis and allergies if you are incapacitated. These bracelets can be ordered online in a wide range of designs.
Constance had sensory issues; so, to prevent her from removing her bracelet, I got her the kind with a metal clasp. When I first gave it to her, she asked everyone to take it off for her. Once everyone was trained not to do that, it worked well. After 72 hours, she was used to it and wore it without complaining. Anyone who came into contact with her, including medical and emergency personnel, knew her diagnosis and allergies.
If you are communicating with medical professionals, speak calmly and clearly. If, like me, you are prone to rushing your speech and have enthusiastic gestures, medical professionals won’t know if that’s your personality or if you are freaking out. Therefore, you need to calmly and clearly answer their questions. Listen carefully and ask necessary clarifying questions.
Medication on Your Person at all Times
If you can, bring your medication with you everywhere. Keep your prescriptions filled. This is true for both daily medications and medications like emergency rescue medication for allergies or asthma. Put your medication in your bag/purse. If you can get enough extra doses, it’s also helpful to keep these in your locker/desk at work/school and in your bedside stand. However, the most important location is in the bag/purse that is always with you.
Keep the medication in the prescription bottles.
When you or a loved one is checked into the hospital, they will ask you for whatever medications you have been prescribed. You can share your one-page information sheet with them and show them the medication in the prescription bottles. They will check the medication into the hospital and keep track of it for you while you are there. This is helpful because the medical check-ins that happen around the clock in the hospital can make sleeping and keeping track of time and dosage hard. It also ensures that they have the medication you need and that it won’t interact with anything they give you there.
I put Constance’s information sheet, medication, and the special instructions that explained how to use her emergency seizure medication in large transparent Ziploc bags. One was always with her in her backpack. We also had duplicates at her school and in her bedroom.
Do not self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol. It will make your care harder and more dangerous. If you are feeling anxious, talk to a professional, meditate, take your medication, and focus on healthy self-care. Of course, this was not an issue with my eight-year-old daughter but there have been reports that many people who are anxious about the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic are turning to self-medication. As a result, I’m mentioning it. It won’t help you get through this.
People are People
Medical professionals are people too. Like you, they have families, friends, religious communities, and pets that love them. Please treat them with respect, honesty, and compassion, just as you’d like them to treat you.