Friday, December 5, 2008


I often bitch about people who I take to the hospital because they call 911 for what I feel are spurious reasons.

But I am often confronted by the feeling of whether or not I should feel sorry for them. Usually it depends on my mood and how tired I am at 3am. I really do try to remember that 'they feel it's an emergency' but when you find people who just use the system cause it's there, it's hard to remember that.

Here are my 2 big conundrum makers.

LOL or LOM (Little Old Lady or Little Old Man) calls around midnight or 0200 or so. They've been sick for a few days, not serious, but now they want to be seen. No fever, vomited sparingly (ie, no dehydration). Doesn't feel comfortable driving at night, especially when they're feeling poorly. Usually you hear from them, 'I'm so sorry to call you at this late hour. Normally I wouldn't, but I just feel so poorly and it's getting worse. I don't know that I can wait till morning to see my doctor.'

These people I generally feel sorry for, and have very little irritation with them. Sometimes they don't even have a car. They're almost always on a fixed income, so getting a cab to drive them may be a hardship, and who knows what kind of health insurance we're talking about, so maybe they've tried a clinic but the wait was too long or something. At any rate, these people usually have some kind of hardship, and they certainly don't abuse the system the way younger people do (sweeping generalization here though...) I have had to convince elderly people to go to the hospital when they are having 10/10 crushing chest pain and trouble breathing.

The second ones are the 30 or early 40-something couples. One of them is sick, and has been for a while, limited vomiting, low fever...generally the same symptoms as above. Usually they call between 0200 and 0400, sometimes earlier, because they are sick and woke up the spouse, or what-have-you. The line usually goes something like this. 'Sorry to call you, but I've been sick for the past couple days. My doctor won't see me till next week, but I'm feeling really sick and threw up twice 2 days ago.'

The spouse usually chimes in here. 'I'd take him/her myself, but the kids/babies are sleeping, and I don't want him/her to drive by themselves.'

Where I ran, we were 10 minutes from 2 hospitals. These people generally also had at least 2 cars in the driveway, and very nicely decorated houses with all the ammenties. These people were the ones I would get irritated with. I totally understand not wanting to wake up the kids or the baby to drag them to the hospital for an unknown amount of time. There are cabs you could call, I'm sure you have neighbors (though perhaps not at 0200). What made you think this was an emergency in any way, shape, or form?

So the conundrum is this. Why, given a fairly similar situation, should I feel sorry for the older person, but have nothing but contempt for the younger family person*? If I am irritated at one, shouldn't I be irritated at both?

And don't get me started about the 40-something people who call us out at 0300 because they don't feel good, but have an appointment with their doc in the morning, and don't want to go to the hospital. Sometimes I suspect the spouse just called 911 to keep the sick one from bitching anymore.

*The middle-aged guy who was vomiting all evening and trying to wait to see his doc in the morning, and couldn't go 5 minutes without dry-heaving is totally exempt. Although he DID try to get in the car and drive. Backing out of the driveway made him hurl.


trauma-rn2 said...

Hey Cab ... just want you to know you have a fan! ER nurse here ... I couldn't do what you do .. thanks for being there!!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and I will finish reading it tomorrow! Love it! And I agree with you on this post 100% having been a medical person for too many years and about to get back into it- (yes, I have to be stupid) I will be dead or dying before an ambulance will be called. Keep up the good work!

Paramedic 134 said...

For me, if we get called after midnight for anything "routine," I get angry and feel a lot less sympathetic. Getting called at 0200 for a 30 year old woman with abdominal pain for the past 6 hours who has two running cars in her driveway AND her sister on the way there to "watch the kids," but not to take her to the hospital = me angry. Getting called to a nursing home to take a patient to the ED because the nurse is "unable to get a Foley in" at 0500 = me angry. I could go on and on.

I, personally, cannot IMAGINE calling an ambulance for some of the stupid crap we respond to.

Nice blog.