Written by Sandra Solinas | Gastroparesis patient and advocate
If you are reading this, chances are you in a flare and are not in a good place. DON’T PANIC! You are at the Emergency Department (ED) for a number of reasons; the pain is excruciating and nothing you are doing is working, you are vomiting and not able to keep fluids down, your nausea medications are not working, you may even have an issue with your tube blocking.
The Emergency Department can be chaotic and frightening so they need your help to understand gastroparesis and how best to treat you.
If you are a known sufferer of this condition we have what we call a red alert letter. When you present yourself to the ED this is a letter explaining your condition, who your doctors are, how to contact them, and most importantly, your current treatment regime and medications (dosages and intervals).
For those of you that are newly diagnosed or in the process of being diagnosed this is a very handy letter to ask for through your GP or specialists gastroenterologist. You should be kept on you at all times. Please be aware, although you may present to the ED with the letter they still must follow all protocol and run a series of tests to fully exclude other serious issues with similar symptoms.
You will get asked a series of questions, such as:
- Are you or could you be pregnant?
- When was your last period (female)?
- When was the last time you ate and what did you eat?
- When you started to feel like this and what you were doing?
These are all common questions – just trying to get a general picture.
Then starts the process of elimination
They may take bloods, do a urine test, and take a few X-rays. Sometimes send you for some other tests that can only be done off the premises and will help you to and from with medical assistance.
In any case they should keep you in under observation until they have results in that might shed some light on your condition. They may attempt to move you to a ward if a bed becomes available and/or if they intend on keeping you in. This may be until the worst of it is over in a few hours or they have your pain and symptoms under control.
Some of the ED staff may even recognise you from previous admissions, we can become “regulars” at the local hospital.
Therefore it is good practice to have a gastroparesis management plan in place to deal with symptoms. Also build a care team you trust that you can turn to when all else fails, this team should entail all your medical specialists and doctors (GI specialists, dietitian, surgeon, pain specials).
So here’s to navigating the ED department with gastroparesis! It is never easy visiting ED but hopefully, this guide with ease your stay.