When is the right time for a trip to the ER? For every person, every condition, and every circumstance, the answer is different. For me, it's when the pain becomes greater than myself. When it takes over not only my body, but my mind... when what's happening to me doesn't make sense.
This happened a few days ago. I suffered in my bed for hours, gasping from pain. A new pain – pain that was coming from my lower left abdomen and radiating to my back and hips. The next day I attempted to go to work, but I never felt a pain quite like this – I had no idea what was happening, but I did know it was time to go to the ER.
For those of us with an invisible illness, an unusual set of fears exist when visiting the ER. The doctors, nurses and PA's don't know you – they don't know your medical history, years of struggle and rotating list of prescriptions. You have to tell them all of this, rattle it off like a well versed poem, count on your fingers the conditions you have, making sure not to forget a past surgery or allergic reaction. And you have to do this while you're in an enormous amount of pain.
Then there's the stigma. The fear of an eye roll, the brushing off of your complaint because of your preexisting conditions. Because your illness is not visible on the surface, or in a blood test, or even on a CT scan.
And although you're surrounded by medical professionals, and beeping machines, and humming lights, you're ultimately responsible for your own care. Only you know your own body and your own pain, and it's all on you to be your own advocate.
So why even bother to go to the emergency room for chronic pain? The best, and maybe only answer is to receive pain management medication that you'd be unable to elsewhere. And if your pain is unusual, it's a one-stop-shop for every possible test and scan you'll need to let you know what may be happening. The downside of course, is waiting for hours upon hours in a hospital bed. under super bright lights, surrounded by a cacophony of voices and sounds.
As for me, I never really got a clear answer to what my new pain was. Could be a small ovarian cyst that showed up on a sonogram, or could be the cough caused by a never-ending sinus infection lead to me straining the muscles in my abdomen. But hey – those pain meds sure were nice.