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How to talk to a dr. in the emergency room w/out being treated as a drug seeker.

  • By wendylynn

    I have had migraines for 22 years now. First few years they were just sporadic but for at least 10 years they have been chronic. I endure the pain as long as I can and I have become pretty good at masking the pain. I’ve been to an ER I can’t even count the times. I recently moved to a different state all the red tape etc from starting all over again. The previous ER was not helpful and I suppose they have a list of “regulars” that they consider drug seekers. Guess I got on that list. Two weeks ago I had THE worst migraine I’ve ever had. Auras,dizziness, pain just off the charts, throwing up, diarrhea, That was on Friday. Saturday the throwing up had stopped but in the evening the pain changed. Never anything close to that intensity! I have a family history of at least 2 members died from aneurysms. Very few in my Mom’s family have had severe migraines,including one of the ones who died from aneurysm.

    I don’t think I was out of line to be afraid. The advice I read on line is if the pain changes you need to get checked out. So at 11pm on a Saturday night (I don’t have transportation right now) I got my 70 year old Dad to drive me two hours to take me to ER. In Missouri earlier this year we had to sign a form stating Dr.s could access you pharmacy records. I don’t mind them having this information but the nurse set me up in a room and the doc had my records and had made up her mind about me because of those charts before she ever stepped foot in my room. She was rude, condescending and convinced that I just wanted drugs. I go to a pain clinic, I wasn’t looking for meds I was scared something bad was going to happen. Point of all this is that I got an evaluation form in the mail yesterday and I’m trying to research to send in with this form so maybe the next person won’t be treated like that. I’m a fairly intelligent person, my mom was a RN and I’m not without information but this Dr had me in tears. I have NEVER been treated like this before. So if you have some info about statistics and how routinely migraine sufferers are treated like this I would really appreciate any info that would be helpful. Thank you!

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  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Wendylynn,

    I’m sad to say many of us have experienced the same thing – being treated as a drug seeker by ER staff. In your case it sounds like you had every reason to seek out help, especially with your family’s history. I don’t have exact figures, but can tell you I hear this sort of thing way to often.

    We have information I’d like to share with you on how to make an ER visit more successful, and forms your doctor can fill out before hand to eliminate issues like these; https://migraine.com/blog/emergency-migraine-treatment-forms/. And tips and tricks to help when you are there; https://migraine.com/blog/tips-and-tricks-for-a-successful-emergency-department-visit/.

    I hope that helps,
    Nancy

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  • By kristen

    I know this is an old post, but I had to struggle with this recently as well.

    I let the doctors know what I’ve tried, set up a list, schedule, etc… to bring with me, explaining what I’ve done, what has not worked, and what has worked in the past (if anything). Usually when I start going on about my preventives, how my abortives have not helped, and how long the migraine has lasted and what symptoms are present, they start treatment immediately. I can sense sometimes where there is an initial, “oh, she’s a drug seeker”, tension at the start of the convo, but once we start talking, things usually ease up.

    I never request pain medicine, unless the migraine is unbearable. Usually, by the time I’d be requesting pain medicine, I’m in tears and it is obvious I’m not faking anything. If they offer pain meds to be sent home with me, I decline and let them know I’ll follow up with my neurologist. I think that has helped build rapport with the ER team.

    My local hospital has me down as a regular for migraines, and when I come in they speak softly, turn off all the lights in my room, and start me on a migraine cocktail ASAP. I think I have only had one or two poor experiences, and both times were when I was just diagnosed and did not have a neurologist yet and did not know what to say.

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