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smudges's avatar

When do you feel ok about calling an ambulance? (sorry it's long)

Asked by smudges (10433points) May 28th, 2023

In another question I mentioned that I wasn’t having a good Memorial weekend…here’s why: Friday night I think I aspirated some stomach liquid – I have GERD. I was even sitting/laying almost upright in bed, which is supposed to keep that from happening, but between burps and toots I was pretty gassy. I finally got up and went to the recliner. I noticed I was breathing fast and shallow, so I took my BP. It was 81/44. I felt horrible – upper back/shoulders were hurting badly, trouble breathing, low temp of 99.9, lethargic, and repeated low BPs (lower number in the 40’s). I really thought I might die; that something might be seriously wrong and I was dismissing it. I kept debating about either taking myself to the hospital or calling an ambulance (it was from 1am until 4 am)

Isn’t this just typical? I could think of 20 reasons not to call – apartment isn’t up to snuff, hadn’t showered that day, bed hair, would neighbors see, would they let me walk or put me on a gurney…then all of the crap you have to go through in the ER and the endless waiting which is so difficult when you’re miserable. Even if the first wait to be seen isn’t long you have the wait between each thing – labs, then they discuss it among themselves, MRI, then they discuss it among themselves, etc.

So I ended up not calling.

What have you done when you wondered if you should call for an ambulance?

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22 Answers

chyna's avatar

Oh @smudges! You should have called. Upper back and shoulders hurting could be a sign of a heart attack. This is Sunday. How are you feeling now? If nothing else, you need to make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Why does this kind of thing seem to always happen on a holiday weekend?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

When I get that bad I call my mom or a toll free nurse hotline.

janbb's avatar

How are you now? I would have probably called one of my girlfriends and asked them what they thought but not in the middle of the night, I guess.

I’m so sorry!

seawulf575's avatar

Personally I don’t call the ambulance for much. If I am terribly out of it and feel my life is in danger…ok. If I can’t drive (or be driven) and need medical attention…ok. When my wife was having a heart attack…definitely. I have done some funky things to myself and took myself to the hospital rather than calling an ambulance.

The only time I should have called the ambulance and didn’t was when a girl I was dating started having an asthma attack and she didn’t have an inhaler. We decided to drive to the hospital (about 20 minutes away). She stopped breathing other than the occasional gasping breath about a third of the way there. I made the last 15 minutes of the drive in about 6. At that point (when she stopped breathing) I had a momentary decision to make of calling for help or getting her there. It would have taken longer for help to reach me so I drove. But looking back, calling at her apartment would have been the best option.

filmfann's avatar

Last week a friend of mine became quite sick at home.
His incredibly smart wife tried to get him an ambulance, but he insisted that she drive him. (She has been in and out of wheelchairs over the years.
She got him to his feet, and he took a few steps, then collapsed. He again demanded she take him to the hospital, and stressed NO AMBULANCE!
She got a neighbor to help, but even with them both assisting, he dropped again and again. This went on for 2 hours.
When he finally got to the hospital, they found he had a GI bleed, and his hematocrit level was at 7. He should have died.
But he was trying to stop from looking weak.
His exceptionally brilliant wife was second guessed by everyone, and felt like an idiot.

smudges's avatar

I’m feeling better, thanks. I can attribute the low BP to my doc having increased my med recently because it was so high. I’ve been on it for years with no problems, but when I retain water or lymph fluid my BP goes up. I’m thinking it finally kicked in and that’s why it was low. It’s now normal for me in the 60s. My back/shoulders still hurt, still have a low temp and sleepy/tired way more than usual. Chest is still kinda wonky breathing-wise. I’ll call Tuesday if they’re not open tomorrow and they’ll see me at least within the week – they’re good about that.

But what stops you guys from calling ambulance? I’m one of the first to tell others to call one, but don’t tend to take that advice myself. Thanks @seawulf575, and my god that must have about stopped your heart!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Growing up I took a taxi or had family drive me to the hospital. As the trip is expensive. $500 or so in Edmonton, Alberta. I would have to be in incredible pain for me to take an ambulance. Like my eating a whole box of Raisin Bran to equal one bowl of Total cereal, as a teenager. That I waited for my dad to come home before calling an ambulance.

The advantage for having an ambulance drive you, is that the paramedic stays with you until a doctor sees you.

That has changed in Alberta. Now paramedics are free to answer more calls, because they do not have to wait for you to be seen by a doctor.

raum's avatar

I’m glad you’re feeling better!

Anytime I feel that critical medical attention is needed sooner than I can safely drive to a hospital, I’d call an ambulance.

janbb's avatar

NOthing would stop me from calling an ambulance if I felt I needed one.

smudges's avatar

^^ There’s always that nagging voice that says…“But do I really need one?”

But I know medical personnel would say to call.

Thanks for all of your responses. 8)

janbb's avatar

@smudges I think you and I each live alone which makes a difference too but I would probably have that nagging voice as well..

kritiper's avatar

When it’s worth the expense!

filmfann's avatar

Over the last 8 years I have been to the emergency room 3 times, each time driven by my wife.
Each time we considered how long it would take an ambulance to get to us, (at least 20 minutes), and decided we could get to the ER faster.
Each time, while sitting in the car, heading down the mountain where we live, my thinking would alternate between “Am I being silly? Maybe this isn’t that bad!” and “Hurry! Hurry!”

chyna's avatar

The ER where I live almost always takes the person that arrived by ambulance before they take a walk in. Now if you walk in with a bullet wound Or your arm chewed off by a tree chipper, that’s a different story.

JLeslie's avatar

I completely understand debating whether to call. Sounds like you had good reason to call though. Your BP was dangerously low, you definitely should not drive yourself in that condition.

Any chance you were dehydrated?

Do you take BP medication?

Do you take thyroid medication?

If your BP runs low a lot, I think you should tell your doctor. Maybe he will do a 24 hour BP monitor for you. Make sure they test your thyroid before they dose you up with bunches of other drugs. Highish body temp, low BP, heart racing, can all be signs of too much thyroid hormone, but also can be many other things. Like I said, could be dehydration and heat exhaustion too.

Edit: I just saw you take BP medicine. Whenever you increase it, increase by very very little at a time. You can die from low BP. You pass out and hopefully you wake back up.

gondwanalon's avatar

I think that your critically low blood pressure is a life threatening and emergency condition. You would be justified to call for emergency help.

Every time I call to make a routine medical appointment I have to listen to the recording telling me to call 911 if I’m dealing with a medical emergency. But I live just 3 miles from a prompt care clinic and 5 miles away from a hospital emergency department. In this situation it’s generally faster for my wife to drive me to the hospital (which she has done many times). Of course with a stroke it’s best to call 911 to get medical help immediately.

I’ve been dealing with atrial fibrillation for the last 22 years. The powerful arrhythmia drugs and Beta Blockers about did me in. Caused me to pass out twice. Felt sick and miserable much of the time. At one echo cardiogram appointment my blood pressure was “too low to measure”.
(The synergy of powerful drugs & atrial fibrillation).

Good health. Stay strong.

jca2's avatar

I can understand your hesitation.

The two times I’ve been in an ambulance, they’ve been called on my behalf. Once was because I was in a bad car accident and once was when I fainted in the city, due to dehydration and it looked to my family like I was having some sort of an episode (stroke?).

The two other times I was in dire medical need, once was when I choked on a bone and once was when I had Guillain Barre Syndrome and couldn’t walk. The choking time, I swalled the bone but it was stuck in my throat, and I drove with a neighbor to the hospital, and the time when I couldn’t walk due to GBS, I called a friend to help me get onto the bed and then he called a family member of his who is a nurse and she came that night and drove me to the hospital.

From what I understand, when you go to the hospital in an ambulance, you re seen right away for triage. The triage nurse’s job is to determine who needs immediate attention, but for example, if you have chest pains and you go in an ambulance, you’re not going to sit in the waiting room for five hours like you may if you drive yourself.

I can also understand the hesitation due to the condition of my house and personal hygiene, but it’s a decision made on a minute’s notice and due to desperation, so I think if you were in reallybad medical condition, those other factors wouldn’t stop you from calling.

smudges's avatar

@JLeslie I just saw you take BP medicine. Whenever you increase it, increase by very very little at a time. You can die from low BP. You pass out and hopefully you wake back up.

It was only increased by 20 mg. Yes…sitting in the recliner it occurred to me that I could just go to sleep and not wake up. Each time I dozed off I was wondering about that.

JLeslie's avatar

@smudges I have no idea what medicine you take and if that is a big increase. Do you usually take 60mg? Then 20mg increase would be a lot. Do you take 200mg? Then 20mg wouldn’t be very much.

snowberry's avatar

I have only been in an ambulance once. I was in the military as a NCO. I was terribly ill and in horrendous pain. Friends drove me to the base hospital twice, but I don’t know if they even bothered to take my vitals, let alone check anything else. They just sent me back to my quarters. The last time someone called an ambulance, and they admitted me. Apparently I was so obviously sick, they thought I was dying. (I was). It got worse after they admitted me.

Would I call an ambulance next time? I don’t know. It sure didn’t work out very well last time.

Forever_Free's avatar

I would not feel bad about calling an ambulance if I questioned my ability to safely get to a hospital or if it was a critical need. There is no shame in doing it like in your situations. Things can spiral quickly.
I have called them many a time for others in need. I hope someone would do it for me if I didn’t have the ability to do it myself.

SnipSnip's avatar

When someone needs emergency transport to a hospital is when I call 911. I’ve never called one for myself….I’ve been in one two times. Neither of those times was I picked up from my home.

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