’Tis the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
Your HIV doc is nowhere to be found.

But your fever is high (could it just be the flu?),
so you hit the ER, with your mood turning blue.

The waiting room’s packed with sick people galore—
Limbs busted, tots wailing, folks sneezing and more.

You’re freaked that your “flu” is becoming severe—
To survive the ER, check the tips listed here:

Planahead: POZ hopes you don’t get sick and end up in the ER ever—much lessover the holidays. But if your doctor is going to be unavailable, askhim or her to recommend a hospital emergency room—preferably one whereDoc is on staff. Keep directions to that ER in your home medical file.

Callahead: Find out if the ER is on “divert” status, a code alertingemergency medical service workers to avoid that hospital because it’stoo busy. If you walk in, you may have a long wait. To shorten the waitat the other end, arrange a ride home in advance.

Bring I.D.: And make sure you have a current insurance card and doctor’s contact info.

Bringrecords: The American Academy of HIV Medicine’s Howard Grossman, MD,says, “Write up when you were diagnosed with HIV, past infections,surgical history, HIV and other meds you’ve taken, how long and in whatcombinations” to avoid having to repeat it to every doc and nurse yousee.

Keep up to date: Tracy Bruce of Atlanta says,
“After 12years of HIV, my immune system couldn’t handle a bee sting, so in 2002I went into anapyhlactic shock—my throat was swollen shut, and Icouldn’t breathe or speak. Because I had an updated, written medicalhistory—including allergies—the EMT guys could start treatment evenbefore loading me into the ambulance.”

Pack it up: David Gray,an HIVer and veteran of Massachusetts ERs, says, “If admitted, you’llneed comfortable clothes, underwear, something to read, paper, pen andphone numbers. And bring all your meds. When I’ve been hospitalized,they’ve always messed up, like giving me only one of my threeantivirals.” San Francisco’s Rachel Chin, MD, advises bringing at leasttwo doses of your combo in case the hospital pharmacy is lacking. “Youcan administer your pills yourself,” Chin adds, “but let the docknow—there may be an NPO [nothing per oral] order in case you needsurgery.”

Speak up: At the ER, state your problem clearly,including HIV status. Be polite but assertive. ERs take severe casesfirst. If your condition worsens, alert the receptionist.

Buddy up: Bring along a friend for comfort and good cheer. And to all, a good night.