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An ambulance made from a curly phone cord. Scissors are cutting the phone cords in front of the ambulance.

Wait! Don’t Call That Ambulance..

“Please don’t call an ambulance. I’m fine. I promise. Really. My leg bends that way normally. I swear.”

Those of us who have been suffering from RA (and other musculoskeletal autoimmune illnesses) for a long time know this dance. You are out at a store, or the movies, or in someone else’s bed, and bam! You fall, something dislocates, or you suddenly feel faint and before you know it, good Samaritans are calling 911 without even asking. Good Samaritans or that girl whose bathroom you’ve been locked inside for forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to climb out of a window with a dislocated hip. You know, either or.

Why I avoid ambulance rides to the ER

The lights, the crowd, the whispers: it’s like all the trappings of fame without any of the benefits. It’s why those of us with RA dread it, and why I’ve personally experienced this horror of humiliation so many times that now I just wave like The Queen when they are wheeling me out. It wasn’t always like that, though, and some of my early experiences were as crazy as they were embarrassing.

One of the first times I needed an ambulance in public was at the shoe store. I touched on this incident briefly on one of my podcast episodes, but now we can dig in a bit more. I swear everything I’m about to tell you is true.

It happened when I was trying on shoes

It was one of those shoe warehouses, you know, the ones that are so large they have their own weather systems? Of course, the men’s shoes were on the top floor, farthest from the escalator because…why not? I remember I was wearing my new jeans and they were super skinny, like Kate Moss on a cleanse skinny. I looked good back when I could still fit into regular shoes, and I thought “You know what would go great with these jeans? Some boots…yeah. Cooool.”

So I grabbed a pair that looked good, sat down on the tiny mirrored stool that is too small for everyone, kicked off my shoes and then bent over to put on the boots. The right side went on without a hitch and felt luxurious. Ohhhh – sheepskin lined! I was in footwear nirvana so, without thinking, I whipped my left leg up to pop on the other boot and…bluuump! I say bluuump because that’s pretty much what it felt like. There wasn’t a pop or a snap or a big hit of lighting style pain. It just felt like I had put my live fish in the wrong size container and it flopped out.

When I dislocated my hip

I instantly knew what had happened. I mean, part of my brain desperately wished I was wrong, wrong like the Mayan calendar in 2012 but just like the apocalypse, it wasn’t to be. I tried to get up and although my brain said “Yes we can!” my body said “Really..?” There I was, at this galaxy of footwear, stuck on my shoe stool desert island. It was only one floor away and 200 feet to the entrance but it might as well have been the moon.

Recruiting mom for some assistance

Fortunately, my mother was available for assistance, so I called and she eventually tagged in. Now after years of having a child with RA, she is an expert at thinking on her feet so she immediately grabbed the shoe store stool and began pushing it like a toboggan over brown shag snow. After getting halfway across the top floor, we realized that the designers of this particular shoe universe had neglected to grace the building with elevators. Damn you, you thoughtless shoe purveyors! People in wheelchairs need shoes too! Not content to be defeated, my mother found a poor, unsuspecting shoe store minion who was about to have a bad day and dragged him by the collar to where I was, sitting dejectedly on my shoe fortress of solitude.

Don’t call the ambulance!

The poor boy began to say “Do you want me to call an –” before the look I gave stopped him cold mid-sentence. He had already dialed 911 by then, and I told him that if he pressed send the ambulance was going to be a two-fer. Smart boy, he put the phone down and, berated by my mother and clearly shaken, he eventually pointed us towards a freight elevator used for stocking. We shimmied our way over and I log rolled into the lift. My mother forced the poor stock boy, who was so far out of his league that he hadn’t said a word in a while, to send us downstairs and she made damn sure he was there waiting for us when we landed.

The cost of an ambulance ride

As the doors opened on the first floor, not only was the terrified shoe minion there but so was his manager and a much, much less terrified shoe minion. I would even go so far as to call him a shoe goon. They were holding a cart for moving boxes and it was clear what was to happen. Before anyone moved though, the manager started to say “Are you sure you don’t want me to call an –” and before he could finish the sentence I had educated him on all the costs and fees involved with getting an ambulance, as well as the written proof that would then exist of an incident happening in his store. He got the message, and with a quick nod to his large associate, the shoe goon flew to me and swept me up in his arms like Kevin Costner in the bodyguard and gently put me down on the stock cart.

Better off driving to the ED

Like leaves in Autumn, we flew through the first floor of the shoe universe and made it almost all the way to my mother’s car which was waiting just outside the entrance. Unfortunately, the cart I was currently residing in was not going to be able to brave the terrain beyond the vestibule, so once more I was swept up like Whitney Houston and plopped into the front seat of my mom’s car. We said our thanks, promised not to sue, and off we flew to the ED!

As you can see, some of us go to great lengths to avoid the brouhaha of calling an ambulance: the material costs are steep and the emotional toll is even higher. This is a tale that I have been privy to many times since then and, in every case where I broke down and used an ambulance, they didn’t even turn on the siren. Trust me, I asked. More than once. Apparently, the jeopardy I was in wasn’t “siren worthy.” Meh, I’ll give you siren worthy Chad… But I’m not bitter, no. It’s just another part of living with that wonderful disease called RA. Talk soon.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • PT3688
    8 months ago

    This was an amusing story but you need to be aware that a dislocated hip places the head of the femur in an area of important nerves and blood supply. A mishap could have been disastrous with permanent paralysis and/or blood loss. An ambulance ride is indicated for this problem.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    8 months ago

    @pt3688 That is certainly true, but in my case I don’t have a femur any longer as both my hips are replaced, so things are a little bit different in my case. Either way, though, it’s good advice for anyone to follow for sure. Better safe than sorry. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • 2mra
    8 months ago

    I feel that you are exaggerating the humiliation by using an ambulance Daniel but you surely have a humourous way of discribing your excursions.

    I visited this site last night because I couldn’t sleep. Of course, after reading your article, I still couldn’t sleep since I was giggling so much most of the night. 🙂 Are you a stand-up comic on the side, by chance? Then Rick had to go and throw his comment in. 🙂 I am more than happy to hop an ambulance when needed. I don’t feel humiliated at all and it only costs 45 bucks. No biggie. Insurance pays the hospital fees.

    I also experienced the hip dislocation, while in the basement doing laundry. I bent to pick up a sock and then I couldn’t bend back up. After fiddling around with my hip for a while, I managed to get it working again. It was excruciating walking back up the stairs but oh well. When my Rheumy saw my exray, he claimed that I needed a Total Hip Replacement(THR). What? When I looked at the exray, it looked like a shark had gnawed off most of the top of my hip bone.

    Well, another sleepless night after reading your article again. Darn you! Oh and NO, you don’t sound bitter at all. 🙂

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    8 months ago

    @hwb0w4 Thanks! Man, if an ambulance was only 45 bucks here I’d call the thing all the time. “Ah yes, I, um, hurt my foot. Can you perchance drop me off at the hospital next to the mall? I’ll walk from there. Promise. Kayyyy Thanks!” Ha ha. Not a stand up comedian but always thought about it. Then again, comedian part I got but the “stand up” part….. Thanks for reading! Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Casmere
    8 months ago

    2mra@ Hi, so I believe you must live in Canada, right. I do and the persons cost for an ambulance when you are covered under the LHIN and OHIP is $45.00

    I believe Daniel and Rick live in the States where medical coverage is very different.

    I, to o enjoy reading Daniel’s stories. He has been through so much but can still write about things in a hilarious manner. I, myself do not care for “Stand up Comic’s” but he (Daniel) for sure has a way with word.

    All my best to you 2mra, Daniel, Rick and everybody


  • 2mra
    8 months ago

    Hi Casmere:

    Yes, I do live in Canada. I was dxd. with Type 1 Diabetes also when I was age 3, so I’ve had many trips to the hospital. Some with sirens, some not.

    Anyways, I was unaware of the cost of a U.S. ambulance ride. Such a shame that it costs that much. It’s not fair! People with illnesses should pay less.

    We need Comedians….stand-up, sit-down or laying down. I go out of my way to watch funny shows…although I enjoy mystery, drama, etc. also.

    I hope that you are having a great day Casmere. Best to you too.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    8 months ago

    @casmere Thanks so much for the kind words! You are right, too, ambulance rides for me can cost a few hundred dollars here in the US. I try to keep it humorous because I want everyone to be able to enjoy some time off from the daily drudgery of RA! Thanks so much. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    8 months ago

    Glad this gave you a laugh 2mra! We appreciate you sharing and being part of our community. Wishing you some better sleep tonight. Best, Kelly, Team Member

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    8 months ago

    LOL, It reminds me of many times in my life when someone has called an ambulance for me. I hate the ambulance for all the reasons you point out. Once i was even at the hospital and someone wanted to call the ambulance. I was like no man let walk around the corner to the ER.

    You have got to love good Samaritans. All the power to dial and none of the responsibility for the bill. Which amazingly, if they were really good Samaritans they would pay the bill.

    Just saying

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    8 months ago

    @lawrphil I didn’t even think of how much we have to pay for someone else calling an ambulance! Great point! The power of good samaritans. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

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