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Visiting the Emergency Room When You Have a Chronic Illness

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Entering the emergency room means you are feeling vulnerable and need some help. People are there for so many different reasons: those in physical pain, or needing life-saving treatment, people visiting family members in their time of need, experiencing mental health crises and so much more. When I was there last week, it really put everything into perspective and showed how everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Last week I entered my local emergency room department in severe pain. I was waiting for tests and to see a doctor all night. I saw many patients and their families helping one another, but most of all how overstretched our healthcare services are. Each room was split in to two to get more patients in, each machine was passed around as quickly as possible, nurses were being sent down from different departments to help with the workload and waiting times were longer than usual. That night, some people were at the emergency room for the first time, some through car accidents and others through chronic illness. This was an environment people with chronic illness know all too well — too many patients, too few beds.

I often feel that people with chronic illness used to the hospital surroundings have a sixth sense; they know when someone is struggling, but also are more willing to wait because they know the time it takes to care for patients. We see hospitals are overcrowded with too many patients and too little patience.

Here are some other common chronic illness experiences:

  • Figuring out your own symptoms with a chronic illness – are they new symptoms or are they symptoms of your chronic illness? Are they caused by sudden illness or are they part of your illness as you get older? Should I be worried, or should I leave it a few days and visit my physician instead?
  • Chronic illness can trigger many emotions. Dealing with your chronic illness day in day out can cause many different emotions, not just with the actual illness but also the environment you’re in, and other aspects of it such as guilt and loneliness. Being in the hospital just makes you overthink everything more.
  • It takes effort to manage a chronic illness – often patients who go into the hospital come out cured or have simple treatment lined up. However, there are some who have to learn how to adapt to managing an illness which can take over their whole life.

We are constantly surrounded by doctors and nurses, not necessarily in the hospital but always in our thoughts. The time we have to take off work for appointments, processing medical results, not knowing what to do when we feel unwell and most of all not wanting to take up people’s time, whether with family, friends or medical professionals. Please know that when we end up in the hospital, we appreciate that you are busy. But we are sick of worrying people anyway so when we turn up to see you, we do need your help.

Next time you find yourself or a family member in the emergency room, take a moment to look at the other patients there sharing similar thoughts with you – the unknown. People may be facing different health challenges, but we are all looking for that one common goal: to feel better and be back on to the right track.

Please be patient because we are all wanting the time and effort of healthcare professionals. It takes time for doctors and nurses to do our tests, get our results and sit down with each of us to tell us what is going on. They spend their time being empathetic, compassionate and reassuring, telling us it will all be OK.

I try not to judge others, as you never know what they are going through.

Getty image by Chinnapong

Originally published: December 16, 2019
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