When I first saw this article in Live Science about the strangest holiday ED complaints, I was interested in what other doctors’ perceptions were, but I first sat back and thought about what types of complaints I usually see more often on Thanksgiving than during other times of the year. I’ve given up on trying to time “strange” complaints. They occur so often that I lose track of any temporal aspect to them.
Because Thanksgiving obviously occurs on a Thursday and because many doctors offices usually aren’t open the Friday after Thanksgiving, the holiday often presents patients with difficulty in obtaining medical care. Office schedules are booked in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, few offices are open during the holiday or weekend, and the schedules are again packed the following Monday and Tuesday with patients needing care. So patient volumes in the EDs usually increase, and I typically see more patients with routine problems than I do during “normal” weeks.
Thanksgiving is also one of the times where families get together – many times when they haven’t seen each other since the last holiday season. When busy adults haven’t seen the steady decline in the health of their elderly family members over the prior year, they will sometimes bring in their family members for an evaluation of what they perceive is a sudden change in their family member’s health. Then, instead of spending time enjoying the company of their families during the holidays, many elderly patients are admitted to the hospital to rule out old age.
Thanksgiving is also a time of food and drink intake. The excesses of alcohol often result in reduced inhibitions and oversedation. So there are always the injuries from fights over such things as whose football team is better and who got to eat the turkey neck. Later in the evening, it isn’t uncommon for families to bring in family members whose excessive alcohol intake has made them difficult to arouse.
Getting back to the Live Science article … the strangest complaints for visits to the ED include burns from turkey preparation, lacerations from carving accidents, food contamination, overindulgement in alcohol and food, sports injuries, anxiety, and performance pressures. I wasn’t even close.
Lacerations and stab wounds, sports injuries and hurt feelings, heart attack and heartburn, anxiety and isolation – we’re there to take care of everyone so that hopefully families can reconnect next month to enjoy more of each others company. If you happen to be in the ED today, remember that the person taking care of you or your family member is probably giving up time with their family so that they can be there for you.
Safe and happy holiday wishes to everyone and their families.
And go visit a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while. Bring a picture and a card. It will be worth a lot more to that person than will a “Doorbuster” you got by standing in line in the freezing cold waiting for a store to open up on Black Friday.