Earlier today Fat Cyclist added a post on his site How to Help a Loved One Starting Cancer Treatment which had some really good information and there is a ton more good info in the comments from his readers. I happened to think I could offer some insight on what to do if you need to call 911 for a loved one specifically if your loved one has cancer. I sent him an e-mail with some suggestions and he suggested I add it to my site. So here you go “What to Do When You Have To Call 911 For A loved One.”
1. Be ready to have your house swarmed by fire fighters. In my city if you call 911 you automatically get an Engine Staffed with at least 3 fire fighter/ paramedics and a Rescue Unit staffed with 3 more fire fighter paramedics. That’s at least 6 highly trained rescuers at your front door usually within minutes. Each of us has a job we all know it well and we do it gladly. It may seem like overkill but your loved ones life is potentially on the line here and keeping that in mind can there really be too many paramedics in your house?
2. Take the time to write out a medication list including dosage amounts and how many times a day your loved one takes that medication. Its not hard any piece of paper will work, once you do that make copies of it. Keep it somewhere you know you will remember even under the stress of a medical emergency. We always tell people to put it on their refrigerator. If any medication changes please note that on the list. If you loved one has a medication added or is done taking one take it off the list or add it as the case may be. There is no shame in pain medication….I repeat NO SHAME AT ALL. Some people try to hide this fact, please don’t.
3. On the medication list please make a note if a dosage has changed in the last week. This is important for the simple fact medications don’t always get along.
4. Help us help you. If there is a certain way you move your loved one or a position of comfort shout it out. Our goal is to make our patients as comfortable as possible.
5. How are your house numbers on the outside of your house? We are good but we are not mind readers please make sure your house numbers are in plain sight and easy to read at night. Want to be our friends forever? Make them reflective and you might just get a Christmas card from us. If we can’t find you we cant help you.
6. Ports, shunts, and central lines. When were they cleaned last? Any problems with them? Recently replaced? We want and need to know this information.
7. What hospital do you use? We need to know. Now this is going to get tricky and even controversial….we can’t always go to the hospital you want to go to. Sound crazy? Here’s why, lets say your loved one is having chest pain. The hospital you want to go to has no way to treat a potential heart attack….why would we go there? We go to the most appropriate facility available. This particular medical emergency might not have anything to do with cancer. Think of it this way…do you go to a proctologist for an ear ache? Neither do we.
8. Don’t get offended if we don’t look at you when you are talking. We move fast and we have a lot to do, we are experts at listening while we are doing something else. We are catching what you are saying even though it may not look like it at the time.
9. Keep a clear path in your house or your loved ones house. We have stretchers and we will probably need to move your loved one through the house. We also have about 500 pounds worth of diagnostic equipment. Clear paths speed the time we can get in and out.
10. We want to know everything and we want to know it five minutes ago. We need to know the highlights like past history of high blood pressure, strokes, medication allergies, recent operations or treatments etc. Know it and tell us about it. Stuff like a broken finger when your mom was 4 is just meaningless clutter.
11. Doctors. We don’t need to know them all we just need to know who is currently treating your loved one. Even if its 3 or 10 if they are treating your loved one currently know who they are. You can even add this to the medication list and list what their specialty is.
12. Stay calm. Panic does not help anyone, if you need to step out of the room for a moment do so.
13. Be patient. Depending on the problem we may need to stabilize in the house. We have run on thousands of patients we know what we are doing and how to do it. Screaming stuff like “Hurry Up” and “Would you just take her to the hospital” is completely unacceptable and despite the fact you have a reflective address on your house is a sure fire way to get OFF of the Christmas card list.
14. Usually only one person can ride in the ambulance to the hospital. That’s the rule, an ambulance is no place for family reunions. The rest can meet us at the hospital. In some cases we will be running lights and sirens to the hospital. If you are following in a car DO NOT try to keep up with us! If we are just driving without lights and sirens there is a reason and there are also laws that govern when we can do such a thing.
15. If your loved one is awake we want to hear the answers from them, dont offer them up right away. This is a little trick we use to determine level of consciousness. We also are looking for speech patterns and things like drooping corners of the mouth and tounge movement. We want to see where your loved one is mentally and physically and if they can answer questions. If there is some problem where they cant speak we will look to you to speak on their behalf.
16. Don’t get pissy when we ask your family member the same questions several minutes apart. Again its one of the tricks of the trade, we are getting a benchmark on mental acuity. Its not that we aren’t paying attention its just we are crafty tricksters and we get information even without asking.
17. We use needles, big ones small ones and everything in between, get over it. Don’t freak when we pull out a needle and if your loved one is God forbid a child never promise that child that they wont get a shot. Kids feed off of the reactions of parents if you freak the kid freaks and it is nearly impossible to treat a kid in the middle of a tantrum.