RHINEBECK, N.Y. -- As an emergency medicine physician, my job is to figure out what is wrong – and quickly. Then I identify what actions are necessary.
Here’s an example: An elderly woman is brought in by ambulance. Her vital signs are normal, but she sounds like she has marbles in her mouth. If someone can’t speak, but is aware of their surroundings, my first thought is stroke. I asked this patient to raise her right hand. She could comprehend the command, but couldn’t move that arm. When a stroke is suspected, I alert the hospital’s stroke team to rush to the Emergency Department. The patient then has a CT scan of her brain, blood is drawn and her kidney function tested. Because the hospital uses a high-tech CT scan with a dye that lights up the brain’s vessels, we can easily see a clot and treat it quickly to prevent brain damage.
A common complaint that brings people into the Emergency Department is a sore throat. If someone has a sore throat caused by a virus, an antibiotic won’t help or cure them of symptoms. However, a sore throat might be a sign of strep throat, which should not be ignored. Untreated strep could progress to rheumatic fever, which causes issues in your joints and can harm your heart.
There is an easy way to determine if you have strep or a virus. Typically, strep will involve four symptoms: a high fever, white spots on your tonsils, swollen glands and no cough. If you have a cough and a running nose, typically strep can be ruled out. If you think you have strep symptoms, seek medical attention.
Not everyone is thrilled to need emergency attention. Sometimes there are long waits to see a doctor, especially when a critical patient needs immediate care. We try our best to figure out which patients are the most critical and to treat everyone with respect and kindness. There are many great, knowledgeable doctors in this field, but at Northern Dutchess Hospital, we believe that listening carefully and our relationships with patients are top priorities.
W. Andrew Wilson is the medical director of Northern Dutchess Hospital’s Emergency Department and is board certified in emergency medicine. He joined the hospital’s medical staff in 2012.