How To Survive The Emergency Waiting Room

Because it’s cold season, and because we cancer types are advised against loading up too much on Vitamin C during treatment, this time of year we will be particularly vulnerable to catching colds and getting infections – and therefore potentially at risk of enduring interminable waits in ER.  I have bemoaned the 9-hour wait in ER before, and am foresworn to do everything I can to avoid ever going through it again, so help me god. But in the spirit of hope-for-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst, I offer my personal Emergency Waiting Room Survival Kit:


  • Bottled Water – drink plenty of liquids, very important.
  • Snacks, cough drops, gum, lip balm – like going on a plane, except more boring, cramped, under-serviced and without the movies. And with no chance of finding yourself in Paris when it’s over. 
  • Tissues – even if you don’t have a runny nose, the waiting can bring you to tears.
  • Tylenol/headache tablets – I am not advising you to let your fever rage, but personally I refuse to take anything to bring my fever down until the nurse has taken my temperature, for fear I might sink even lower on the list of priority patients (like below someone with a broken nail.)
  • Blanket or Wrap – for the chills, or to form a protective barrier between you and that germ-riddled chair you’re sleeping in.
  • Travel Pillow – perhaps you think this excessive but after, say, hour four, it will start to sound pretty darn practical.
  • Mp3 player – to drown out the noise of other people’s suffering. You are not Gandhi, you’re sick and you have cancer: Ignore them.
  • Hand Sanitizer – get your Obsessive Compulsive freak on & use it every time you touch something or something touches you.
  • Hygienic maskI know this seems extreme, but so too are the myriad germs swirling around the waiting room and dancing up your nasal passages.
  • Socksif you’re going to curl up and try to sleep on that furniture you may want to take your shoes off & put extra socks on to protect your feet from the ick factor, or to protect others from the ick factor of your feet.  Just saying.
  • Sleeping Mask – when you finally leave the waiting room, you could end up in a bed in a brightly lit hallway with two more hours’ wait before the doctor can see you.
  • Servant – or husband, mother, friend, etc. to get you food, liquids, plead your case, massage your head, watch your purse.  Geneva Convention suggests we are to free them after hour six if possible.
  • Book/magazine/newspaper – even if you are too feverish to read, your servant might need the distraction.
  • Cab Fareyes you really will get out of there eventually, and you might need to get home on your own.

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Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

0 responses to “How To Survive The Emergency Waiting Room

  1. geminigirl

    Hey Leanne,

    You’re making me feel pretty grateful for my experience of the ‘flu when I was in treatment. I called the on-call oncologist at the cancer clinic (who happily turned out to be my medical oncologist) shared my symptoms. He wanted me to come to the hospital, but I talked him into letting me suffer at home. His conditions to this were: my husband had to take my temp regularly and bring me in if I became delirious. Then I had to promise to come to the clinic the following day.

    In retrospect I feel sorry for both my husband and my oncologist. My 6 yr old daughter was sick too, so I didn’t want to be away from her; this meant my husband had two patients, both of whom just wanted to sleep. He’d wake me up to take my temp and see if I made sense and then for good measure, he’s a man remember, he’s wake a finally peacefully sleeping sick child who was asleep beside me.

    The next day we all toddled, or swayed in my case, into the cancer clinic. I’m sure the other patients wanted to run and hide from us. My nurse had made a bed up for me, but a patient came in who was more in need of it than me. My oncologist confessed to having been worried about letting me stay home, but knew I was sensible, so…All in all, I’m counting my blessings after reading your emergency room survival kit post.

    By the way, I continue to be obsessive compulsive about hand washing and hand sanitizer. One of my during treatment habits which never left me.

    Hope you’re feeling better.


  2. Sandra

    Sheeesh! Sounds more than awful! Hope you never have to go through it again!!!

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