2 AM, my favorite time to get a call. Mainly because 1 out of 10 actually need us, the odds are far better at night that something is wrong. So when the call comes in that someone is not alert, I often rub my eyes, roll out of bed and realize: “I’m not alert either, it’s 2 AM!”
It seems dad, according to our caller, has been “Feeling bad” for 3 weeks now and the daughter, 55, would like him to be seen at the local ER. No complaint, no emergency, she just thinks he should be seen and demands that we take him across town to a fancy ER he’s never been to.
“That’s not his regular hospital is it?” I ask as we confirm there is nothing apparently wrong with our patient who, by the way, feels fine and wants to know why we’re there. “They wouldn’t give him any medicine at his regular hospital and he needs antibiotics.” the daughter tells us with an inflection that suggests we should have known that to begin with. “Does he have an infection?” I ask knowing the answer before I asked. “No, why? Can you give me something for my stomach pains while you’re here?” I explained to her the purpose of antibiotics and that they were not indicated here and that she appears OK enough to wait 5 hours until the local pharmacy opens for some medicine if her tummy still hurt. “Can you take him now, I need to get some sleep before tomorrow, I have a job interview.” She spouts quickly, bundling her robe in her crossed arms. “I don’t want to go anywhere, I’m fine” States our patient. 2:30 now and we’re getting tired. I explain that we can’t kidnap him against his will and,” she butts in with, “I have medical power of attorney and am ordering you to take him to the hospital. I know my rights.” I hate that. No one realizes that when you call us and we walk in the door, we have final authority on the situation unless a physician is face to face with us and takes over the ambulance. That is the law of the land. We ended up taking the nice old fellow to his regular hospital where, it turns out, he had been earlier in the day and released with no problems. The nursing staff took pity on him and let him have a nap and breakfast. When we returned to the same ER later in the morning, the daughter was irate we had taken him to the “wrong” hospital. She had waited across town for 2 hours before coming here. “How was the job interview?” I asked. “The what?” I clicked my pen closed, picked up my clipboard and sighed. I love my job.