THE BLOG

Finding Room for My Emergency

07/07/2010 06:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If I didn't have an opinion about health care reform before, I sure have one now.

On Monday, I spent 10 hours in the emergency room at The University of Chicago's Bernard Mitchell Hospital. I was there seeking treatment for a toe injury, but ended up finding a news story idea before a doctor saw me. In fact, I became one of the main subjects of this story. When you consider how the health care overhaul could lead to busier emergency rooms, you understand the plight of hospitals.

One plight I noticed was under-staffing. I'm sure the nurses didn't mean to leave me writhing in pain for 10 hours, but it happens. In fact, a clerical error led to me being erased from the system for three of those hours, after getting my initial X-ray and learning from a technician that a doctor would make a suggestion soon. Luckily, there were two great nurses named Pat and Shawntelle who worked tirelessly to correct the error (that a male nurse from an earlier shift made) and get me the help that I needed.

But what about those who can't speak up or lack basic emergency room knowledge? Being sick is definitely a time when you learn how important it can be to have an education. If you can't articulate yourself, you might not have a chance of surviving a potentially fatal ailment. And God forbid if you're there alone with no family like my beautiful mother to support you. Then you're really in trouble.

Who will be the advocates for those patients?

Journalists like me. We have a duty to do more than just "be on TV." We must share information with folks that is necessary for their survival. As a matter of fact, my hospital visit gave me a lot of ideas about how I can work with community outreach departments at hospitals and health clinics to teach folks survival skills for the ER.

One idea is that local news programs can do a series on medical emergencies, featuring tips from health professionals. To supplement that, Facebook or YouTube could provide public service ads in exchange for partnerships. These may seem like off-the-wall ideas, but something is better than nothing.

The doctors couldn't help me until I figured out how to help myself. And I have God's grace to thank for that.