What I learned by going to the ER

I woke up for the final day of a conference I had traveled to in Orlando. My wife, Deb, joined me for the trip, and the first thing I heard from her was, “What happened to your elbow?!”

I had a golf ball-sized bump on the back of my elbow, consistent with Olecranon Bursitis. I remember one of my professors in physical therapy school calling it “Popeye elbow.” This typically occurs because of a trauma or infection, and there hadn’t been any trauma, so it must have gotten infected, which needs to be treated immediately.

We flew back home that afternoon and went right to the emergency room. After waiting a few hours, they confirmed the infection, prescribed antibiotics, drained my elbow, and recommended that I consistently maintain compression on the area.

But I wasn’t confident in the recommendations….

The PA that treated me had a lot on her plate. She was running from room to room, and I could sense she was providing general recommendations because this wasn’t her area of expertise.

So, I later texted some of my colleagues here in McLean and Bethesda within the physical therapy/medical field, and they confirmed my suspicions.

The antibiotic I was prescribed was not the best option for my type of infection, and these areas of swelling should never be wrapped in compression garments.

This is not the fault of the people of the ER. I greatly respect their expertise, the stressful environments they work in, and the fantastic work they do to help so many people. This just wasn’t their area of expertise.

In fact, they did the most critical part of their job. They kept me safe until I could see a specialist.

Elbow conditions such as mine were his area of expertise. His recommendations were specific and clear, and most importantly, he took his time so that I could ask any questions I had.

What a refreshing experience. My doctor was present, and I didn’t feel like his hand was on the doorknob the entire time as he tried to leave quickly.

It is impossible to provide excellent care when we are rushing. As physical therapists, we learn so much just by being present. One of the first things I tell our doctoral students is that our patients will give us all the clues if we slow down, listen, and ask great questions.

Are your healthcare providers doing that? Can you ask all the questions that you have?

What about when you aren’t in their clinic? It’s normal to forget to ask something during an appointment. Will they answer your question promptly when you aren’t in their office?

If you need help, contact me to connect you with the right healthcare provider. I’ve made it a mission to connect with the healthcare community around the DMV because that will help us better serve you.

As healthcare consumers, we can see whomever we want. Look for an expert that provides you with the type of care that you expect to receive!

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