PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, September 19, 2007
It may be a pain to accept services from EMS, but refusing treatment, even if you're feeling OK, could be a huge risk
LUBBOCK, Texas - Ti'Esha Norris was driving down a Lubbock street when a man's car plowed head-on into her.

She immediately jumped out of her car after the wreck - it looked bad; she didn't.

An ambulance was nearby and paramedics were asking if she wanted to go to the emergency room.

But why? She just had a scrape and a small burn.

"I wasn't feeling like I was hurt bad enough for EMS," Norris said.

Two days later, the Lubbock resident did go to the ER because of lingering pain from the wreck and ended up in the hospital for three days.

Norris' experience is not unique - people often decline medical attention despite expert advice because they feel fine and don't want to incur the medical bills.

But in doing so, medical officials say, victims risk potential future injuries and possible death.

More than 11 percent of people advised this year to accept EMS services have declined, according to Lubbock EMS records.

And while the majority of the about 3,700 people who suffered injuries in the 9,700 vehicle wrecks last year in Lubbock went to the ER right away, many of the ones who declined EMS services showed up at the ER later.

A 2003 study by the University of Utah School of Medicine found that 20 percent of people who refused emergency care went to the ER within a week of the incident, though less than 2 percent were hospitalized.

Many of those people just didn't think anything was wrong with them because how you feel after a wreck can be deceiving, said Dr. E. Joe Sasin, University Medical Center's Emergency Center director.

Some conditions may not be noticeable right away, he said, like internal bleeding or head injuries.

That's why "we take every encounter very seriously" and advise victims take the ambulance ride to the ER to get checked out, Sasin said.

Because of possible future problems due to refusing medical care, EMS personnel have residents who decline services sign a form stating they were advised of the risk.

Money can also be a big factor in a victim's decision to not seek medical attention, Sasin said.

Costs can be high, especially for those who don't have insurance.

An ambulance ride to the hospital, without any medical care en route, starts at $643, UMC spokesman Greg Bruce said. That's not including the $11 per mile. A 10-mile trip would cost at least $753. The minimum cost to be seen in the ER is $500.

Many don't think the cost and time spent is worth it.

That's what Norris said she thought after her Aug. 7 wreck.

But, "looking back at it, I should have taken EMS," she said.

Norris saw her doctor after the wreck to get treated for the scrape and burn, but then she started having major trouble breathing.

At the emergency room, doctors told her that dust from her car's punctured air bag had filled her lungs.

After all that: "I would recommend people take the EMS."