Emergency Contact Info and the Single Woman

I had to go the hospital-to-the-stars last week for some tests. The great thing about being a cancer survivor is that insurance will pay for almost any test the doctors want to run. The terrible thing about being a cancer survivor is that doctors love to run all kinds of tests and each test is fraught with potential danger.

In addition to once again being reduced to a series of numbers-

What’s your birthday?

Confirm your address.

Confirm your phone number.

I was asked to confirm my emergency contacts. I’m a 50-year-old woman and my first emergency contact is my 75-year-old father who lives thousands of miles away.

Then they rattled off the contact information for the last boyfriend. I had to tell them to delete his information; he is sadly no longer in a position to be my emergency contact. She deleted him then asked-

Do you have anyone else you would like to add as an emergency contact?

I cringed at her question. I realize that I really don’t have anyone to add as an emergency contact. I remember when the last boyfriend made the move to LA so we could be together, and the pleasure I had in telling whichever admissions officer was first in line that I did, indeed, finally have an emergency contact within driving distance.

Now I am back to having one and only one emergency contact. I realize that the admissions officers in these hospitals can’t possibly know how painful this emergency contact question can be for patients. For me it makes me realize how isolated I really am. Yes, I have friends in LA, but would I reach out and ask any of them if they would be willing to take on this tremendous responsibility?

This is, of course, partially my fault. If I lived closer to any of my sisters I know that each of them would be happy to be my emergency contact, and I would do the same for them. I have chosen, however, to live in a huge city without the benefit of close family members to support me in this way.

I also realize that I’m not anybody else’s emergency contact. Which is worse- the fact that I don’t have anyone local to call on as an emergency contact or the fact that nobody in my life has asked me to be their emergency contact? Does this mean that I don’t have the honest real connections with other people that I am searching for? Or does this mean that I’ve spent most of my life pretending that I am totally independent and that I don’t need anybody else to help me do anything?

I know in my heart that it’s the latter. It’s hard for me to admit I need help with anything. I find that when I’m in a relationship that I get to be smug when I’m in the chair answering questions about my emergency contact but as soon as that security is taken away from me I feel lost. I can name numerous times when men I’ve been involved with have disappointed me in near-emergency contact situations. I can also recall situations where total strangers have stepped up and gloriously handled near-emergency contact situations.

I’m grateful that I still have my father to fill this emergency contact role for me, but I’m on the hunt for a new emergency contact. I’m also open and willing to take on this responsibility for someone else. In our modern society where families are scattered all over the country we need to look to our own communities and step up for each other.

  • Michelle

    How interesting that I have JUST been contemplating writing a blog on this very thing. I no longer have an easy time answering the emergency contact question. My daughter isn’t old enough, my dad doesn’t live near me, my husband is now my ex and my mom and I are on the outs right now. Additionally, I would hate to put that responsibility on any of my friends. Maybe we should be emergency contacts? Lol.

  • Anonymous

    I completely relate when I thought I had to go to urgent care and I didn’t have anyone to call. My single aunt and my single girlfriend both out of state are my medical power of attorney. I had to find a single friend in town in case there was an emergency and someone had to feed Mango the cat. Lisa has a family and a child so people with kids makes it more of a burden for them. It is definitely a support network kind of thing. I was my emergency contact for my grandma and so was her best friend. Friends assume more of those life and death decisions as we age. I have to be way more open with my vulnerabilities and ask for help because now I feel like I have people I could call. Keep writing-

  • sometimes out of touch but never more than 10 miles away

    As the woman who you asked if she would be the one to cut off your hair once the chemotherapy started its vanity breaking path of destruction and who pulled out the clippers when the time came, I hope you know that I can and will always be there for you. You have an emergency contact in me, always…

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