By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 11, 2019
Every now and then I meet with a shame-faced patient.
It’s not because they did anything wrong. They just feel like they did something stupid.
I’m talking about R.B, whose daughter rushed her to the emergency room in the middle of the night because she was having chest pains. It turned out to be nothing more than a bad case of heartburn. (They call it heartburn for a reason!)
I’m also talking about J.T. – a big man who experienced severe stomach cramps, excruciating back pain and nausea in the wee hours of the morning. He thought it was food poisoning or a ruptured appendix.
Instead, it was just an excruciating kidney stone that needed to pass.
And then there was this long, tall fellow who fell asleep on his couch. While sleeping, he bent his arm up to cushion his head and slept like a lamb. But when he woke up his arm was asleep. And it STAYED asleep.
He ultimately decided he must have suffered a stroke while snoozing and immediately called his son to rush him to the emergency room.
“Oh boy”, the emergency doc said. “Looks like you’ve pinched a nerve”.
Stories like these are common. And while they may sound embarrassing to you, they don’t bother me a single bit.
That’s because each and every one of these false alarms could have potentially saved a life. And I would much rather have 10, 20 or even 100 patients return home feeling “stupid” after a false alarm than to have a single patient lose their life because they made the wrong decision.
That being said, here’s the deal.
When to Call 911
One of the strangest phenomenons I’ve ever encountered is the idea that people call their friends, sibling, children or co-workers to rush them to the hospital when they think they might be having a life or death experience.
I’ve even had patients who ordered a cab or Uber to deliver them to the emergency room of the closest hospital.
I urge you. DON’T DO IT!
Time is essential when it comes life saving efforts and the prevention of long-term damage.
For example, every minute you delay treatment for a heart attack or stroke increases your risk of damage and death to areas of your heart muscle, or severe brain damage from a stroke. (Here’s an interesting statistic for you: The average patient experiencing a stroke loses 1.9 million neurons and 14 billion synapses every single minute the stroke remains untreated!)
So call 911 immediately if you ever…
- Experience severe chest pain
- Have difficulty breathing or unexplained shortness of breath
- Feel like your heart is beating so fast that it will burst out of your chest
- Find it hard to speak or experience numbness in any part of your body
- Suddenly experience vision changes or feel like you “can’t see straight”
- Discover that you’re going through a constant severe headache or neck-ache that can’t be explained
- Experience arm, jaw or abdominal pain accompanied with nausea, vomiting, and sweating (could indicate a heart attack without the associated chest discomfort)
- Lose consciousness and wake up on the floor
- Experience sudden dizziness, weakness or mental confusion
- Suffer immediate and severe abdominal pain
- Have a seizure
- Think you’ve been poisoned or are experiencing a drug overdose
- Find yourself in the throes of an allergic reaction
When these types of events occur, a call to 911 is NEVER a mistake.
Ambulances and EMTs have all of the necessary equipment and skills to start life-saving treatment to make sure you make it to the hospital alive. (Your wife, husband, friend, daughter, son, Mom, Dad, neighbor and Uber driver do not!)
I don’t care how foolish you might feel if your initial assessment is incorrect and you’re sent home with a nothing more than a bad case of heartburn or a kidney stone. The people whose job it is to decide if it’s an emergency or not are waiting at the hospital for you.
In other words, even if you’ve misjudged your symptoms on previous occasions and felt embarrassed because of it, pick up the phone and dial 911 for any of the above symptoms.
Otherwise, you could literally end up “dying of embarrassment”.
Saver JL. Time is brain–quantified. Stroke. 2006 Jan;37(1):263-6.