Emergency Room Survival Guide

Going to the emergency room is a last resort, but if it comes the time it is necessary it is best to prepared (given you have enough time to do so). You never know how long you are going to be there, when you will actually be seen by a doctor, and what will happen. Thus, it is best to be over-prepared and have everything you may want/need. Keep in mind, this is what I bring for a horrible migraine, so you can change out items based on your needs.

Items for everyone

  1. An advocate. If you are going to the ER, chances are you will have trouble advocating for yourself and making sure the doctors know everything they should. If you can, bring a parent, sibling, or really good friend who knows you and your condition well. This is crucial in trying to navigate through the ER as you have to explain everything countless times while you are in extreme pain. Make sure they bring something to do and keep them busy, like a book or a computer to do work.
  2. List of medications. The nurse will ask you what medications you are on, and it is crucial it is accurate because of interactions between medications. I have a spreadsheet with all of my medications, dosages, and frequencies that we just give to the nurse. This simplifies the entire process and ensures no mistakes are made.
  3. Water. It is important to stay hydrated, as dehydration can make you worse. I always bring a few water bottles.
  4. Food. Just as you have to drink enough, you also need to eat enough. Even if you no appetite, it is important to eat to give your body energy. While there are probably vending machines at the ER, it is better to just bring your own food so you know you have something you like.
  5. A pillow and blanket. The pillows in the ER don’t even deserve to be called pillows. The more comfortable you are, the better. I have always found it freezing in the ER, no matter what temperature it is outside, and I am rarely cold. Bringing a comfy blanket always makes it nicer, just make sure you wash it right when you get home to get off all of the hospital germs.
  6. Fidget cube. I found this a way to keep my hands occupied because I couldn’t do anything else. It gives tactile feedback and stimulation, and just something to do that doesn’t take a lot of focus.
  7. Phone charger. You don’t want your phone to die while in the ER. You will have people texting and calling to see how you are, and if you need to call somebody to ask something it’s better to have your phone. If you can look at your phone (probably not with a migraine) it is also a great way to pass the time.
  8. Comfortable clothing. I always wear an oversized t-shirt, soft pajama pants, and a zip sweatshirt. You should dress in layers so you are prepared if your room is hot or cold.
  9. Wipes. No explanation needed. Hospitals and ERs are full of germs and you don’t want to leave more sick than you arrived.

Migraine Specific Items

  1. Sunglasses. The emergency room is extremely bright and that is the enemy of a migraine. I never walk into the ER without my sunglasses on, even if it is 11pm at night. The darker it is for you, the better.
  2. Earplugs. The ER is just as loud, if not louder, than it is bright. This is especially true if you go to a pediatric ER, as I do, when there are countless babies screaming at the top of their lungs. I always have my earplugs in, to try to block out as much noise as possible.
  3. Noise cancelling headphones. These go a step behind earplugs and I usually turn them on without any music from my phone. The extra barrier of noise protection really helps me.
  4. A sleep mask. It is very hard to fall asleep with sunglasses on. This is good for photophobia during a migraine and allows it to be pitch black and makes it easier and more comfortable to fall asleep.

Going to the ER is not a good situation to be in, but bringing these things will help make it a little more bearable. Please feel free to comment below what you bring or questions you want me to answer in a future Q and A post. Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

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