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High Blood

Taking a stand in the emergency room

05:06 AM February 27, 2018

I waited for my doctor to arrive according to her listed clinic schedule at our nearby hospital’s patients’ lounge. After two hours of waiting, I was informed by her secretary that the doctor was not arriving, without explaining why. Frustrated at the usual nonobservance of my doctor’s schedule, I resorted to self-medication.

My cough got worse as days passed. I returned to the same hospital a week later, but this time, I went straight to the emergency room. I was attended to at once by an ER resident, whose name I either forgot or didn’t care to jot down. I gave him a detailed account of the last few days, and he advised a lung X-ray.

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The results showed pneumonia.

Having been hospitalized five years earlier due to another illness, I was ready and expecting to be told that I had to be confined. Instead, the resident prescribed several medicines, assured me that I’d be well, and told me to go home. As advised, I bought all the medicines and headed home.

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But all along a sense of dread was growing within me. I thought I should have been confined as pneumonia could be fatal to both young and old. My brother, then still a baby, died of pneumonia six years before I was born. And at the time of my story, my youngest brother had passed on exactly a year earlier.

I didn’t feel safe at home. I could sense that something was seriously wrong with me. Known by my family and my circle of friends as an assertive person, I thought I should assert my right to get another opinion, my pulmonologist’s, whose secretary had just told me on the phone that the doctor was out of town. It was a Sunday evening and it was getting late.

I suddenly remembered the joke about lawyers and doctors: If a lawyer makes a mistake, the client goes to prison; if a doctor commits a blunder, the patient goes 6 feet below the ground. It was the last day of February. I thought it was too soon to follow my youngest brother to the Great Beyond. No, not yet! Urgent motion for postponement, Lord!

After taking the first dose of medicines prescribed by the ER resident, I rushed back to the same hospital’s emergency room an hour later and asked the first available staff to call my pulmonologist. The staff managed to reach her. My pulmonologist spoke with the ER resident, who then informed me, with a mix of relief and embarrassment, that he had been instructed to stop all the medicines he prescribed and to have me confined immediately, complete with an oxygen mask, dextrose, intravenous medicines, and a new set of capsules.

Also, I couldn’t be admitted without a 24-hour caregiver or bantay.

It has been nearly a year since I took a stand at that hospital’s emergency room. It was on the last day of February 2017 that I was admitted to the hospital and confined for five days due to deadly pneumonia.

No one lives forever, not even the best doctors in First World countries. My relative’s cardiologist-husband died instantly while jogging. Doctors are humans, too. The ER doctor or your own internist could either be sleepy, tired, or distracted by
domestic problems or professional issues.

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The lesson of my story? Listen to your body. Don’t be timid to ask for a second medical opinion — or a third, if necessary — regardless of the scowls of doctors. After all, a paying, left-handed patient like me is always right.

* * *

Kat Viacrucis, 66, wrote regular columns and feature articles for the quarterly newsletter (now defunct) of the National Labor Relations Commission, the government office where she used to work.

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TAGS: emergency room, High Blood, Kat Viacrucis, Pneumonia, self-medication
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