I should’ve called 911

Americans have been inculcated to avoid emergency services because of their high costs. My experience has taught me that next time, I won't wait.

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Columnists

September 27, 2021 - 9:37 AM

Allen County Regional Hospital

Sunday afternoon I was stung by a bee, and boy did it smart.

I dropped the clippers and ran for the house. By the time I got inside I was woozy and dropped into a chair. Then the floor.

I was alone. 

I should’ve called 911.

Instead, I started calling those on speed dial.

My husband, across town weedwacking. My son and daughter-in-law, out on a bike ride. My daughter, in Topeka. 

Finally I reached my son, Aaron, in Nashville, who, I only faintly realized in my disoriented state, could be of little help.

Then I called Richard Luken, a longtime reporter who, well, I seem to call for everything.

“Should I call 911?” he asked.

“Naw,” I said. “It’ll pass. Just get Brian,” my husband. 

Aaron got through to Brian, who had stopped to pull out some line.

By the time he got to me, he called for an ambulance, but I begged him to call it off, assuring him I was fine.

But when he asked me to sit up to take two antihistamines, I realized it wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t sit up without assistance, nor swallow easily.

We raced to the ER. By then I couldn’t get down a sip of water.

In 30 minutes, all was well.

I haven’t told Brian this, but I didn’t want an ambulance for two reasons.

First, in my ignorance I didn’t believe I needed one. (Which he already knows.)

Second, I dreaded the cost.

Which really, really makes me mad.

But this is how most Americans think: they’ll drive themselves or have someone else drive them to the hospital while feeling heart palpitations or other serious symptoms rather than call for an ambulance simply because they fear the impending costs. 

It’s not the fault of our ambulance service, but of a healthcare system that allows hospitals and accompanying services to indiscriminately charge patients outrageous fees. As for ambulance providers, according to a recent study, 71% don’t accept health insurance, something I sure hope Allen County commissioners are investigating as they consider a new service.

I have long been a proponent of universal health care, a government-operated system. In the United Kingdom and other European countries, for instance, transport by ambulance is considered standard care and there’s no additional fee. Same goes for Australia. 

To the detriment of our health, Americans have been inculcated to believe that healthcare in general, and emergency services in particular, are to be used only as a last resort. Today, the households with the most medical debt are young families and those ages 45-55. It’s only when senior citizens qualify for the government-sponsored Medicare that the burden eases. 

I know I should’ve called 911, but our healthcare system doesn’t make it easy.

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