“My husband is having a stroke,” said a distraught woman as she ran toward a museum’s information desk. Some friends and I were in the museum at the time in Carson City.
“Call 9-1-1,” said a staff member to a colleague at the information desk. “Tell them we need an ambulance for a possible stroke.” Someone mentioned aspirin.
As readers may know, aspirin acts as a blood thinner. That’s good if it is actually a stroke, but it can be deadly if it’s a cerebral hemorrhage. You need a doctor’s advice. In this instance, an ambulance and two very professional EMTs arrived onsite in less than 10 minutes.
The EMTs concurred, “We get a doctor’s advice for meds.” One of the EMTs was already talking on his hand-held radio, describing symptoms to a physician. “Just get him to the hospital, the doctor said. She’s waiting for us.”
Then the wife said, “We don’t have insurance. My husband lost his job.” They both looked too young for Medicare. They were well dressed, evidently well-to-do, so perhaps Medicaid or other alternatives weren’t something they had ever thought about.
The stricken husband, sitting on a bench, spoke up – slowly and not too clearly, “I’m feeling better now. I ain’t going to no hospital. Jus’ get me home.” An EMT spoke; the other nodded. “Sir, you appear to us to be having a stroke. Are you refusing to go to the hospital?” The feisty, but slurred response, “I sure am.”
After two more slurred, but even stronger refusals, the EMTs confirmed that decision with the man’s wife. Both EMTs then took some notes, one radioed the doctor back, and they left. The husband struggled to walk, gripping his wife’s shoulder, and the two hobbled to their car and departed.
Physicians speak of a “golden hour” after a stroke, during which the damage can usually be reduced if action is taken promptly at a properly equipped care facility with a doctor attending.
In this case, access is certainly the issue.
Here, it was access denied by combined happenstance of a person having a medical emergency, his own poor judgment in the middle of it, no insurance, and huge costs looming even if he resorted to Medicaid.