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  • Jane Wheeler

A Matter of Life or Death

Its been a week, maybe even a week and a half all in the past 5 days.

I have been helping a friend who had to go to the hospital. Sitting in emergency for a few days has the upside of being a great people watching place. Things come to light as you sit in a crowded room, listening to people’s medical history, statements and watching their interactions with others. This has got me thinking about how much do we really know about other people.

What I mean is this, if you took one of your family members into the hospital and they could not speak, do you know what medications they are on, how often do they take their medications, what is the dose, and what is the doctors name who prescribed it?

You might answer yes to those questions and I think if we are talking about your children who live with you or your spouse who lives with you, you probably could answer those questions. But I have to admit, I have no idea if my hubby took any medication while he was out at work, nor does he know if I took mine.

In the age we live in, where we are often on our own, single moms and dads, elderly parents, friends, I believe these answers would be hard to know. Add to the mix that perhaps this person cannot talk, either from unconsciousness, confusion or memory.

While we may have an idea who their family doctor might be, do we know if they have seen a specialist recently and if they did, when and what for?

Have they had previous surgeries before or any implants?

If it is an elderly person or even a teenager, have they forgotten and taken too much or did they forget to take their medication at all? It is really hard to know unless you can ask them.

Yes, we have a system in Alberta where they can look up and see your medications, but it still does not answer all the above questions. As I sat there and watched around me, if you could not speak for yourself, it was difficult for the medical staff to make any kind of diagnosis or even want to. You were put into a holding pattern. No one wanted to really make the decisions because they just did not know.

For my friend, I was not “family” so me being in the room listening to the doctors and nurses created concern and I had to have permission from her because of privacy. After some medication she certainly was not alert enough to retain information so I needed to help with that part as well but it made the medical profession nervous.

Although I am not sure what the difference was if I sat outside the little “curtain” or inside, because a wall of fabric does not make a privacy tent. Everyone in that section of the ER room heard what was going on. What if you were on your own, who would advocate for you then?

I am now more than ever a firm believer in those little baggies or a labelled container hanging on your wall or in your fridge or freezer that say “in case of emergency” and have all the important things listed.

While I think we all think this is a great idea and "one day we will get to it", you really do not know what this day could entail. Today could be the day you get hit by the proverbial bus, slip and fall, or who know what else. Will there be someone close enough to answer all the questions if you cannot.

Write the important stuff down, it can truly be a matter of life and death!

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