By now, many of you have heard the tragic story of 2-year-old Malyia Jeffers, whose parents took her to the ER one day with a high fever and mysterious bruising only to wait more than five hours to be seen. During that five hours, the child’s symptoms had worsened significantly—she could not walk or stand up, her body had gone limp and bruising had covered her face—but even though her parents implored the nurse to see their daughter, she was still forced to wait.
When she was finally seen, it was determined that Malyia had a strep A infection and had gone into toxic shock and liver failure. She ultimately had to have her left hand, fingers on her right hand, and both legs below the knee amputated because they weren’t getting enough oxygen.
This story is particularly terrifying to any parent, but anyone going to the ER with an emergency condition may be forced to wait longer than is appropriate. The instructions below may help mitigate your wait.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
Find out if your hospital posts emergency room wait times.
Many hospitals…have started posting up-to-date estimates on their homepages to help inform visitors of their potential wait.
Call your doctor on the way to the emergency room
Your physician may be able to explain your symptoms more clearly, and when ER doctors hear from a fellow physician, it might help put you on the radar.
AFTER YOU’VE ARRIVED
Don’t leave once you’re already waiting
Tell someone if you notice changes
According to the Emergency Severity Index, triage physicians have specific requirements for assessing pediatric patients. There are protocols in place to reassess patients in the waiting room and alerting the staff to changes in symptoms, especially to changes in temperature and fever, can help your child avoid an excessively long wait in the emergency room.
Ask for the charge nurse
If you have been waiting for a while, and feel like the situation is getting worse, ask for the charge nurse or shift supervisor. Experts in emergency medicine often define urgency using certain terms. They say to advise the person in charge that you think the patient has an "emergency medical condition that should be evaluated right away." –CNN