I first published this article on May 11, 2011. It’s January 12th and it’s snowing. The roads are “not bad” and people with bad colds, chest pain, fatigue, and a vast assortment of other symptoms are driving to my office. I’s a good time to re-post this article!
Having chest pain? Please don’t drive. Short of breath? Please don’t drive. Feeling faint? Please don’t drive. Is the room spinning? Please don’t drive. I am amazed at how many people get behind the wheel of a car when they are physically or emotionally impaired!
Once a week, we call the paramedics. I guess I should be pleased that patients think enough of my care that they drive themselves to my office rather than calling the paramedics. I’m not pleased. It scares the crap out of me. It’s one thing to underestimate how sick you are and die as the result of your own misjudgment. It’s quite something else to arrive at the pearly gates with a stranger’s family in tow!
Pass out behind the wheel and the car drives off the road or into oncoming traffic. What might well have been a treatable illness turns into a disaster of major magnitude. Having such severe pain that you have to pull off on the shoulder leaves you all alone in your time of need. I’m afraid that one day one of my most faithful patients is going to literally drive into my lobby. Don’t let innocents get hurt because you don’t want to bother a friend or call the paramedics!
The paramedics are well trained professionals. Their ambulance is a mobile intensive care unit. Breathing is a funny thing. My patients are always breathing until they are not. They never know when they are going to stop breathing; it just happens. It usually happens when they have a severe respiratory tract infection with cough and shortness of breath. It happens when they are having the crushing chest pain of a heart attack. The paramedics can breathe for you. They can successfully start a heart that is no longer beating. They save lives, yet many people are hesitant to call them.
Don’t be macho about driving. This is one case where both men and women are alike. Men can drive when they are half dead just because they are men. Women are embarrassed to make a fuss by having the paramedics show up. Dying needlessly is something to be truly embarrassed about. Driving into a ditch or through a school yard is something to be embarrassed about. Think about your family, neighbors, and friends. Call them for help if you don’t think you need the paramedics. Just don’t drive them off the road when you lose control of your car.
Treat illness like alcohol. Don’t drive impaired. Help is just a phone call away. The life you save may not just be your own; it may well be the lives of the innocent!