Ambulance Transfers - Another Option
I am on pain medication which require that I go to see my pain specialist every 2 months, come rain, hail or CFS/ME crashes. Since I also am on the "very severe" end of the CFS/ME scale, it was getting so it took me over a month to recover from the trip to the specialist.
One day, on an Internet mailing list for people with CFS, I was grumbling that spending half my life recovering from going to see this specialist wasn't my idea of "a life", CFS or not. Somebody suggested that I use non-urgent ambulance transfers to get there - I wouldn't have to sit up, or drive my power wheelchair at all, so it shouldn't be such a shock to my system.
On the second last day of February, 2004, I finally bit the bullet and used the ambulance transfer to go visit my specialist. The ambulance transfer was brilliant, compared to the usual wheelchair-taxi trip - the doctor let me queue-jump when I got there early, he saw me straight away and the ambulance men waited and took me home again as soon as he was finished. This meant that my total time out of bed was from 1:45pm to about 3:00pm - without the ambulance it would have taken 1-3 hours longer at least, plus I would have had the stress of being semi-upright the whole time in my reclining power-wheelchair, having to drive the powerchair around the hospital to get to my doctor's, and bouncing around uncomfortably in the back of a wheelchair taxi.
I thought about the transfer a lot before it happened, and figured out how I thought it would be the least stressful on my system. In the end, I got the ambulance people to take my own pillows and cushions and quilt from my bed, so I felt comfortable with appropriate and well-known things to hold up my head and knees and something that was soft and light over my legs, instead of having standard ambulance pillows and blankets, which are - in my opinion - scratchy and rock-hard. And, since I was essentially still "in bed", with a quilt over me as well, I just stayed in the pajamas that I would have been wearing that day anyway. That helped even more with the exhaustion because I didn't have to extend my out-of-bed time by getting dressed before I went, and undressed when I got back, which is very hard even with a carer to help me - and there isn't always a carer around.
I think that using my own pillows and covers was a very good move on my part because I didn't have anything right beside my skin that I wasn't used to and I wasn't breathing in strange chemicals from unknown detergents and cleaners used to wash or sterilise the bedding or pillows. Sure, there was still some weird chemical smells around in the ambulance - I wouldn't recommend it to anybody with severe MCS who can't deal with a regular car trip - but for somebody like me with few inhalant allergies, it was better than I could have hoped for.
Oh, and I saved the $15 that a half-price taxi would have cost me too! I think that's quite ironic, given that the net cost of an ambulance is way more for the government, that my portion is less!
I would say that the difference, health-wise, is that recovering from the ambulance trip takes me a bit less than a week, whereas recovering from the wheelchair-taxi version of the same trip usually takes nearly a month! It can even take longer if the taxi people really mess up - like the time when the taxi driver strapped me in wrong and I came within a fraction of a second of being hurled through the back window of a moving taxi!
Ambulance transfers work like this - on a stretcher but in a non-urgent "transfer" ambulance - have to be organised by your doctor or his receptionist. If you have a health-care or pension card, or if you're an ambulance member, then it's totally free of charge. If the doctor can see you right away, then you will stay on the ambulance stretcher all the time and the same crew will usually take you back; but if the crew can't wait they'll move you onto a bed in the doctor's surgery and then another ambulance team puts you onto another stretcher for the return journey.
In conclusion, I very highly recommend this route of travel to anybody in the "very severe" category of CFS - for example people who usually would not travel outside the house, but absolutely have to go to see a doctor.