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The 'What Ifs' You Ask Before Calling EMS for Chronic Illness

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We grow up hearing how important it is to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Police, firemen, an ambulance can all come to our rescue in a matter of minutes.

We see it all the time on television, or movies. There are scads of shows dedicated to the people on the other end of the line when we make the call.

In reality, though, how many of us ever have to actually call for help?

I’ve only called an ambulance twice in my life. One time was because my child was stuck in a swing at the park, and needed the police and EMS to cut her free. The second time was for severe abdominal pain, which I thought could be appendicitis, and was at risk for adrenal crisis (since I have adrenal insufficiency).

When I called for my daughter, it was so much easier. Her legs were stuck so tightly they we’re turning blue, and she was so cold. I didn’t hesitate to call for help.

When they were called for me, however (my mom placed the actual call), a strange feeling came over me. I was incredibly embarrassed.

There were a few reasons for the embarrassment. From my weight issues, to the awkwardness of my hallways, I was self-conscious every step of the way.

I hadn’t really thought about that until tonight, when I was talking online with someone who was concerned about a potential adrenal crisis and whether or not to call 9-1-1. The same questions came up that we see time and time again:

“Do I really need to?”

“It’s that bad?”

“What if I’m wrong?”

The last one haunts me…

What. If. I’m. Wrong.

We are so afraid to go to the emergency room just because we worry we might end up being OK after all?

What if I’m not having an adrenal crisis?

What if the doctor thinks I’m “crazy?”

What if they won’t help me?

What if…

Between the embarrassment about our messy houses, unwashed hair, the vulnerability we find ourselves in, there’s also the debilitating fear that the ER will blow us off again.

So I start to think…

What if it is a crisis, but they don’t know what to do?

What if they decide not to help?

What if they think I’m making it up?

When there is a crisis, we need to be considering instead:

What if it’s a crisis and I don’t call?

What if there’s a bigger problem?

Why don’t I trust myself to know my own body?

When those of us with chronic conditions can work through all of these questions, maybe it will stop being embarrassing to call for help. After all, don’t we deserve it?

Have you questioned whether or not to call for emergency services before? How did you feel? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: May 20, 2019
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