If you have to wonder, Is this severe enough to go to the ER?, then the answer is a resounding NO. “Emergency” means that without immediate help, the person will die (soon. due to this problem).*
I’ve always thought that it’s much better to wait and see my PCP than go to the ER, but for some reason, when my four foot tall son slipped and fell from a height of five feet, I lost sight of what emergency means. No, he didn’t look like he was dying, but the arm he’d landed on was all puffy and scraped, and I didn’t know if it was an innocent little bump, or if the bone was sticking out but hadn’t erupted through the skin. When I tried to examine him, he yelped with even more pain.
Not dying; not an emergency. But I took him to the hospital anyhow.
The last time I was in that emergency room, my three-year old had been hit in the head with a baseball bat. That child is now eleven, so it’s been a while. Back then, we were shown immediately to a room; paperwork happened later. This time they checked us in right away then sent us to the waiting room. Nope, not an emergency.
I’ve read much about extensive wait-times due to overflowing waiting rooms, but this place wasn’t crowded. We checked in and were told that it wouldn’t be long; we were next. “Not long” is relative, I guess. If things can take four hours or more, anything under an hour might seem short to the staff. If you’re a little kid in pain, forty-five minutes is a long time.
Last time we had a room. This time we were eventually taken to a large area with seven beds separated by curtains. HIPAA? No privacy at all.
After a bit, a couple arrived with their drunken teenage daughter and were put in the bed next to us. I didn’t quite understand why the parents deemed her drunkenness an emergency, because the girl was both walking and talking with reasonable clarity. Although her speech didn’t seem excessively slurred, that’s not to say that the language was reasonable or clean. From the sounds of things, she learned her vocabulary from her parents.
I’d taken my son for medical attention for a broken arm; I hadn’t thought he’d be getting vocabulary lessons in gutter-talk. The three people on the other side of our curtain were making more noise and causing more disruption than the entire rest of the room. After one particularly offensive outburst I said, “Watch your language! I have a little kid over here.” The mother and daughter were indignant, but the dad realized what they’d sounded like and all three of them quit talking. Made me wish I’d spoken up sooner.
When the time finally came to immobilize my son’s arm, a whole slew of people crowded into our little corner. They must have had a bunch of new staff, because nobody knew what they were doing; one tech used this as the opportunity to teach a bunch of others how to cast an arm. I think I know how to do it now.
From what I can decipher of my insurance policy, most of the costs will be covered, but I’ll have to pay about $300 for that little adventure. $300 to be told to follow up with our PCP and have new x-rays taken in a week. I really need to print a reminder somewhere that I can refer to it:
If the person isn’t trying to die, it’s not an emergency.
*Everyone will eventually die.