What To Know Before Calling 911.

What To Know Before Calling 911

Last updated: March 2021

There may come a time when you need to call 911 for help, but how do you know if you should call or drive your loved one with COPD to the emergency room yourself?  If you decide you need to call 911, what should you know to help the paramedics do their job and ultimately save your loved one?

There were a few times that we really considered calling an ambulance for mom.  Most of those times were because she was refusing to go to the emergency room on her own, and we knew that if we didn’t do something, she would die.  Since every patient is so different, I hesitate to go into great detail about how she was reacting and what her breathing was like, but I do know that each time we were at the point of calling 911, we knew.  We just knew.

The simple answer is: if there is a life threatening situation or you are not comfortable taking your loved one to the emergency room, it’s time to call 911.  With COPD, we get so wrapped up in the disease and what it’s doing that we need to remind ourselves that a heart attack or stroke could still happen.  Remember to be aware that there are other medical issues that could become a medical emergency.  Also, we deal so much with exacerbations and shortness of breath episodes that we need to be careful not to dismiss what is happening.  If your loved one is unable to recover from being short of breath, you will need to get help.  Most of the time in these situations, you can see it coming.  If possible, taking your loved one to the emergency room before it gets worse is the best approach, but believe me, I understand having someone that does not want to shadow the door of a hospital.  Those times can be very difficult, but you need to be strong and alert to the situation.

Now let's dive into what you should know once you call 911.

Let's say that you need to call for an ambulance, what information should you have about your loved one when you make the call?  EMT Crew Chief, Ralph Giuliano, says that knowing past medical history, allergies and daily medications are essential, especially if the patient cannot speak for themselves.  He also said, "if there are aggressive pets or obstacles that might hinder or delay patient care, they should be taken care of prior to EMS' arrival."  If there is someone else with you, it is a good idea to send someone out to meet the paramedics, especially at night.  You don't want anything to keep them from doing their job.  Your loved one's life could depend on it.

Knowing your location is extremely important.  You will need the physical street address, and knowing nearby landmarks and intersections will be helpful to make your wait time as short as possible.  As you can guess, when it is a real emergency, the time that it takes the ambulance to arrive never seems to be short enough.

While you are waiting, depending upon your loved one's condition, EMS dispatch may give you directions to begin care.  With each situation being drastically different, the communication with dispatch could vary.  It is extremely important that you remain as calm as possible during this time.  Listen intently and speak clearly.

When the ambulance arrives, be prepared to give a brief description of the patient's condition and why you called 911.  You need to give them enough information to help them assess the situation, but not so much that you could write a book with all of the in depth details used.

Once your loved one is in the ambulance, you need to be prepared to drive yourself or arrange for a ride to the hospital.  Most EMS services allow someone to ride in the front cab, but you should be prepared with another ride just in case this is not possible.

There is so much to think about when it comes to an emergency, but if you are prepared before you ever need to pick up the phone, things will go much more smoothly.  When it is a life threatening emergency, time is precious and clear information is vital.  I hope that you never have to call 911, but if you do, I pray that your preparation will bring you clarity and purpose.

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