3 Simple Requests From a Woman With a Chronic Illness in the ER


You probably know me by now. I’ve been in and out of there for the last two years. One thing or another always brings me in. Sometimes it’s migraines, sometimes it’s pain, kidney stones, pneumonia… the list goes on.

I am probably your least favorite type of patient. I am not a horse. I don’t neigh; I float through the clouds like a unicorn. I can’t just give you one presenting problem. It’s everything, all at once.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.  

How long as the pain been going on? Years.  

I think, honestly, we have gotten this somewhat down. I have learned to make it short and simple for you. You don’t want my medical history; you don’t want the whole back story.

The ER is quick and dirty. Get in, get out. It is not meant for patients with chronic illness, and often we get labeled drug seekers or sent for a psychiatric consult. Most of us, the very vast majority of us, are not drug seekers. At the moment, I don’t need psychiatric care. When we come into the ER, it is usually because everything else has failed. We come in, and we know that it can go one of two ways. Sometimes it goes great, the doctors listen to us and we are in and out. Sometimes it goes awry, and we end up crying in the ER and calling for patient advocates.

As someone with multiple, severe chronic conditions for my whole life now, I wish these three things would happen when I come to your ER:

1. Read my chart. It’s all in there. At least know my name and my basic history.

2. Listen to me. I’ve been through this, I know my body better than you.

3. Just because a disease is really rare or you don’t know what I have, it does not give you the right to dismiss it. See point two if you are still confused.

I have officially been out of the ER for one week now. One whole week. And next week I will celebrate two.

But I will be back, and when I am, it will not be my first choice. It will not be because I am weak or whiny. It will be because I have exhausted everything in my arsenal and I am coming to you as a last resort. Please don’t make it harder than it needs to be, and I promise I’ll do the same.

Follow this journey on Living Without Limits.


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