Preparing For the Worst

Going away to college on your own can be frightening. As if the trailers for the recent movie, “The Roommate”, weren’t enough to scare you, there are about a thousand other things that can go wrong and make you long to have your parents by your side. I learned the hard way how to be prepared for an emergency hospital visit. Learn from my experience so you will be prepared in the event something similar happens to you.

Houston, we have a problem

It was Valentine’s Day of my sophomore year when I started to feel stomach pains. Having not indulged on chocolate and other goodies that day, I figured it was just upset with the pizza I ate and went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, the pain was isolated to the right side of my body and was a lot worse. I had zero appetite, broke out into a cold sweat and could not nap it off due to the pain. I called my mom (a former nurse) and she walked me through a few simple tests to prematurely diagnose what we both realized might be– appendicitis. After some convincing1 (I can be pretty stubborn and am not the type to run to the doctor whenever I feel crummy), I conceded to going to the campus health center.

Hello, Hospital

After hanging up, I told my roommate and a few friends where I was headed and slowly hobbled across campus. The staff at the health center said I needed to go to the ER, which thankfully was right across the street.  I had no idea what the name of the hospital was, it’s address or phone number, and my phone was quickly losing battery power. After filling out some paperwork and showing my insurance card, I was hooked up to an IV, which in itself was a big step for me because I am deathly afraid of needles. I waited and waited to be seen by a doctor and finally when I had an ultrasound, it was confirmed that I had appendicitis. Luckily, my appendix had not yet burst (which can lead to more serious health risks), but it needed to come out ASAP.

Having never had an operation or been hospitalized, it’s safe to say that I was freaking out. Two of my friends came to my room and I borrowed a phone to call my parents, finally able to tell them what hospital I was in and let them speak to a nurse. My mom and sister got in the car to make the 5 hour trip to my school, but the doctor said we couldn’t wait for them to get there and scheduled the operation for sometime around midnight. He also told me that they performed an average of one of these operations a day and that nothing I did caused it – it happens randomly.

By the time I was wheeled into the operating room, I had calmed myself down enough to realize this wasn’t the end of the world and felt somewhat at peace with what was about to happen. I was told to count backward from 10 and I doubt I made it past 7 because the next thing I blurrily remember is the doctor telling me everything went fine, and then my mom and sister coming into the room. I was able to leave the hospital that morning and go home for a long weekend. I emailed all my professors to let them know what happened and also had a note from the hospital for missing class.

All’s well that ends well

Looking back, I have come to realize that as scared as I was at the time, this was an important lesson.  I learned that I can face obstacles and overcome them on my own, though it’s always nice to have a parent or friend to rely on for help or advice. The best part of this whole experience? It can never happen to me again.

So what are the key takeaways from this experience?  Here is how you can best prepare in the event something like this were ever to happen to you:

  1. Seek medical attention when you need it to help prevent future complications.  You don’t want to leave an illness untreated
  2. Know about your campus’ Health Center: location, phone number, if you need an appointment, etc.
  3. Make sure someone on-campus knows where you are going at all times
  4. Make sure your parents have all contact information for the local hospital
  5. Bring not only your cell phone, but the charger, as well
  6. Have your insurance card or a copy of it
  7. Tell your professors why you missed or will miss class while recovering
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