Avoid this health crisis

Tove Pape

Health crises and accidents do happen—Anytime, anywhere, and at any age.

My ringing cell phone indicated the caller was my husband who was driving home from a trip.

I answered, “Hi, honey. How long until you get home?”

He answered in a weak voice, “I’m in the ER.”

“Emergency Room! Where are you? What happened?”

“In Rolla, Missouri. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

“Heart attack? What does the doctor say?”

“I haven’t seen one yet.”

“What hospital are you in?”

“I don’t know. I just followed the hospital highway signs here.”

“Go ask someone.”

“I’m too sick.” he whispered.

Both my mind and heart were racing. I started my search to find him by calling information and getting the phone numbers of all the emergency rooms in or near Rolla.

I called the first number. “Do you have a patient with the last name of Larkey in your emergency room?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Is he having a heart attack?”

“We can’t tell you.”

I exploded, “Can’t tell me! He’s my husband.”

“I’m sorry, but the HIPAA laws forbid us from telling you anything about his condition.” “Is he still alive?” I begged her. She refused to tell me.

Panic threatened to overcome me. I needed to get to Rolla, two and a half hours away, immediately with his health directive that said what treatments he did—and did not want—in life threatening situations. And also with his power of attorney that gave me the right to discuss his medical condition.

I called Pat back. The relief when he answered was incredible. At least he was still alive. “I’m on my way.” My hastily packed suitcase contained those two critical documents.

The miles seemed to creep by during that longest trip ever. I called him back. He didn’t answer. No answer. What did that mean? Was he dead? Thank goodness he answered my third call and reported “I’ve finally been evaluated after waiting almost an hour. I’m in the hospital.

They don’t know what is wrong, but it doesn’t appear to be a heart attack.”

Whew. I slowed the car to 80 miles an hour.

Our story has a happy ending. Pat is alive and healthy. But what if it had been a heart attack or stroke and they had treated him in a way his health directive said he did not want?

This episode made us aware of how vital it is to have immediate access to our legal health documents, at all times. Our car pockets now contain copies of our powers of attorney, health directives, and insurance cards plus summaries of our health history. These documents are updated as our health needs change. When flying, we take these documents with us.

Health crises and accidents do happen—Anytime, anywhere, and at any age. Be prepared.

Travel, even locally, with these documents: power of attorney, health directive, doctors’ contact info, critical health data, list of medications, list of allergies, health insurance cards, and photo I.D.