How long is too long?

How much time would you expect the paramedics to take before they show up if you called for an ambulance?

Recently, we had an emergency in our house. Zak had a really bad headache on one side of the head and it wasn’t going away, then his face started going numb, so he called the nurse line. After talking to him for a bit, the very nice nurse told him to call 911 because he had all the symptoms of shock. So he did, then he passed me the phone as he was starting to find it hard to talk. His breathing became labored as I was on the phone with the 911 operator, who said that the ambulance was on its way and, and I quote, to “reassure him that help was coming and call back if he got worse”.

Shortly thereafter, Zak started shaking from head to toe and was breathing increasingly faster. He asked me to call a neighbor who is a doctor, and she graciously accepted to come help us out. She examined Zak and reassured us that nothing seemed wrong with him, and eventually his breathing and shaking calmed down. His head was still hurting a bit, but he didn’t look like he was going into shock anymore. With things looking better, our neighbor went home and we just wanted to go to bed. But the paramedics hadn’t arrived yet…

All in all, it took them an hour and a half. Granted, if our neighbor hadn’t come, I would have called back and maybe it would have bumped us up in the 911 priority system. Maybe. But it scared the hell out of me, because I thought that I could count on an ambulance (or a fire truck – aren’t they first respondents in BC?) to show up within minutes of a call. Did I mention we’re a 5-minute walk away from the nearest hospital? I guess in a real emergency, we’ll run to the ER instead of waiting for an ambulance…

The thing is, I told them that Zak looked like he was going into shock and he was having more and more trouble breathing. And that he passed me the phone because he was finding it too hard to talk. Shouldn’t that have warranted a relatively quick arrival? Are we on a black list of hypochondriacs? It is the first time ever we call for an ambulance, although we have called 911 before when the fire alarm was going. It did turn out to be a false alarm, but the fire department itself says to call in such cases. So we shouldn’t yet be considered trouble!

Anyway, I learned two things that night. Good neighbors are priceless, and the 911 system is not foolproof. I just hope they had bigger emergencies to take care of.

One Response to “How long is too long?”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Je n’ai jamais vécu cette longue attente dans l’urgence, mais ça m’a toujours fait peur!!! C’est tout de même étonnant! D’après les symptômes, il y avait des chances que ce soit très grave! Effectivement, si c’est vraiment urgent, n’appelez pas l’ambulance…