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Thanks for the NurseLine

Bruce Pederson

Bruce Pederson
Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 2012

If I am ever in doubt about a medical issue, I have developed the habit of calling the ELCA NurseLineSM. I almost always get the help I need — and sometimes my anxiety is relieved and we avoid a trip to the Emergency Department of a local hospital. Here is a recent example.

My wife, Nancy, has Parkinson's disease. Recently she fell on the stairway of our home and badly twisted and sprained her ankle. When I arrived at the scene, I was concerned that she had a break. My immediate impulse was that she might be hurt worse if she attempted to stand on it. I thought I should immediately call 911 and have her taken to a local emergency room.

I paused for a moment and said to myself: "My best immediate resource to help assess this is to call the NurseLine." I took out my cell phone and called. A nurse was immediately available. She quickly went through several questions to help assess how severe the injury was: "How much swelling?" (lots!), "What is the color of her skin at and around the sprained ankle?" (Not so bad.) "Touch her toes and check for feeling." (Her feeling was normal.)

I passed the phone to my wife and she described the sound she heard during the fall and clarified that it was not a snap sound, but rather a stretching sound. After this assessment, the nurse went over my wife's medical issues, the medications she was taking, and her medical history. After we completed that conversation, she suggested that she thought Nancy did not need to go to the ER, but could test her wounded foot by standing. I expressed concern about there might be a break. She said that if the pain was too great, that would be a message for my wife to keep weight off the foot. Nancy stood up with my help and the pain was not so bad. The nurse suggested that we call my wife's physician right away in the morning and get her in as soon as possible. Before we hung up, she reminded us that the NurseLine was available 24 hours a day and that we could call back if we had any further concerns or questions. We got Nancy back up the steps and to bed.

We drove to her clinic the next morning and she had an X-ray (it revealed a hair line fracture at the base of the tibia). She was fit with a boot and referred to an orthopedic physician who reviewed the diagnosis and encouraged rest, icing to bring down the swelling, wrapping, and at least four weeks healing before she would walk without the extra support of a boot or clam shell. The doctor reassured us that this type of fracture usually heals well and rather quickly.

Conversations at work suggest that by avoiding a trip with an ambulance and an ER visit we probably saved claims of $3,000 to $5,000. We did get the help we needed and a good night's sleep.

Thanks again for the NurseLine.

This submission describes a personal perspective on an aspect of the ELCA benefit program that may or may not reflect the experience of others. This benefit is currently available to members with ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits.

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