Going to the ER with Sickle Cell

For some reason, the medical profession, especially in the US has a limited view of sickle cell. First of all, they think that people with the trait can’t have pain—THAT IS A MYTH! Just because they don’t have the full out disease, doesn’t mean that pain doesn’t exist in the life of a carrier too. On the sickle cell forum, I heard about the guy on the East Coast that has had the trait for YEARS but kept getting told that he couldn’t be in pain. 

What is up with that bullshit line, “You can’t be in pain?” How do you know what my pain is? Are you in my body? Do you know anything about me that you think because a certain dosage works on you or others that it’s okay for my pain as well? Pain is subjective bitches, so if I’m telling you I’m in pain…then hell yeah, I’m in pain. 
Okay, before I get hit with the firing squad let me remind you—I work in the medical profession. So I see on a constant basis how we in the ‘med profession’ have a nonchalant attitude towards pain. If it’s not your pain, you can’t relate to it. So just try to help the person and stop hoarding the pain meds like you are paying for it our of your own pocket.  

Yeah, it sucks the way hospitals and med. professionals treat us. I once was made to crawl out of the ED on my hands and knees, I was in so much pain and they just ignored me and watched me crawl. I don’t want that to happen to anyone ever again, so let’s arm ourselves with some knowledge. 
Here are some tips that a sickle cell warrior should know before going to the emergency room:
  • You have to find a doctor…just one, that is with the program. Once your doc is on your side, he can write standing orders for you at the ER that you visit. Most people don’t know about this, but it is possible for the doctor to leave standing orders with parameters on your file with the emergency room. That way the ER doc knows what he needs to do to get your pain under control.
  • Try using a hematologist or oncologist instead of an internal med. doctor. They have more compassion, especially the oncologists. Oncologists have a better relationship to pain management because cancer pts deal with alot of pain and tend to have high tolerance to pain meds just like we do.
  • Stick to the same ER.  I’ve noticed that when you go to different ED’s you don’t get a good history. They won’t have you in their records and won’t know your parameters. Also, it will look like you only get 1-2 crises a year instead of 4-6 if you play ED hopscotch. So find one that doesn’t treat you too bad and go there often. That way they will have a thick file on you that they can refer to and realise from your labs that duh, you DO have sickle cell.
  • When going to a new hospital, I always take my doctor’s notes and medical folder with me, just in case they try to give me grief. Usually this contains a set of lab work so they know where my H&H usually hangs out at as well as what kind of pain meds I’ve been prescribed. In the medical field, you can never have too much information. 
  • Always try to have someone go with you, like your mom, sis, friend or man, someone that they won’t walk over that will raise hell to get your pain under control. Your family/friend can be your greatest asset during this, they are your advocate and are there to see to your comfort and make sure things are done correctly. When all else fails, ask for the manager (yes, hospitals/emergency rooms have managers too!) I once filed a complaint with the nursing supervisor against my doctor and nurse, and it went up the channels until the CEO of the hospital came to apologize on their behalf. Never think that you have to take whatever they dish out—remember, you are the customer!
  • Empower yourself. Learn as much about this ailment as you can so that when you get in the ED, if you are met with an ignoramus, you will be able to educate them. Just because someone has a medical degree, doesn’t mean they know much about SCD. You are the most experienced person in the room because you’ve dealt with it everyday of your life. That’s a whole lot of knowledge. So don’t be afraid to step up and speak up for yourself. 
Good luck my warriors! 

Tosin Ola

1 Comment

  1. Racy on February 25, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    I loved your comment!
    As someone who recently moved to another state where the ER nurse said she never heard of sickle cell, I feel your pain! Their incompetence led to a three day coma where my lungs filled with fluid and I had heart problems.
    I would have died if my brother who is a nurse wasn’t there to save me!
    One thing I wanted to add is that sticklers are often treated like drug seekers. That has been my biggest issue as they leave you in pain for hours after they give you one shot of meds that made no difference.
    I was in the ER 2 weeks ago and they put pain meds in my IV and I didn’t even notice
    Thank you for your comment
    Glad to know I am not the only one suffering in the ER

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