Our $5 Trip to the ER

Last Updated on July 22, 2014


[Caution: this post may not be for the faint of heart – like me.]


It all started Sunday night, just before 8pm. I was in the other room when R came rushing in with blood all over his hand. He had sliced his index finger open on a glass.

Now, I do not do well with all things medical. Like, at all. I started to feel lightheaded right away, but I sucked it up and helped him as best as I could. We got him cleaned up and covered the cut with band-aids before returning to watching tv. My stomach started to settle, but R was still bleeding a lot. After a quick consultation with Google, we decided it might be best to go to the Emergency Room.

After we drove to the hospital and found parking (because the free ER parking lot was of course full) it had been about 45 minutes. We told this to the check-in desk person, who gave us a bit of attitude for waiting so long. (Funny, she didn’t seem all that concerned while she took her sweet-ass time checking in the person before us.) The attitude continued as we moved to the triage nurse. She gave R a hard time for not knowing my phone number or what our current marital status would be classified as – despite the fact he was bleeding and was probably in a bit of shock. (Seriously?)

We sat in the waiting room for a few minutes before R was called to yet another nurse who took his temperature and blood pressure, before sending us back to the waiting room. By this point, we had been in the ER for well over 10 minutes and not a single person had even looked at his cut.

Thankfully the ER was very quiet and we didn’t wait long before being called in. I was hesitant to go in with him, but I went. A nurse came in almost immediately and finally looked at his injury. She said it doesn’t look that bad and that the doctor would probably give him one stitch because we were already there. I felt extra queasy by this point because hospitals… and because there were blood-soaked balls of gauze all over the floor around the garbage can. (Seriously?)

I felt the light-headedness beginning and decided that I better get out of there before I became a patient myself. I grabbed myself a juice from the waiting room vending machine to help keep my blood-sugar in check and tried to distract myself from the people walking around with IV carts by playing on my phone.

It turns out it was a good thing I left because the cut ended up being worse then we all thought. I’ll spare you the details, but they had to freeze R’s finger and gave him 4 stitches.

Thankfully we live in the land of free Health-Care (a.k.a. Canada) and even though we do not have health insurance, the whole trip to the ER cost us a whopping $5:

  • $3 for 1 hour parking
  • $2 for a juice

But – it would have been FREE if the ER parking lot wasn’t full and if I wasn’t so squeamish.

If we lived in the U.S., we’d probably be looking at a medical bill of at least $2000. Even with my Emergency Fund, this would have left us in a bad financial situation. (I guess that makes dealing with a bit of attitude and questionable cleaning practises worth it?)

R is still in a lot of pain and cannot straighten out his finger because of how the stitches were put in. Thankfully, it shouldn’t interfere with his work at all and as long as it it heals properly, he should be back to normal within the week.


Have you ever had a medical emergency? If so, what did it end up costing you?


P.S. If you find yourself in need (or want!) of some cash, head on over to Money Propeller to check out an awesome infograph on Grocery Prices Across North America (in which I participated – and LOST) and enter the Giveaway for your chance to win $200!

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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37 thoughts on “Our $5 Trip to the ER”

  1. AH! I would have been super squeamish. I don’t know how hospital workers can handle it all.

    Right now, we don’t have the best health insurance. We have a $12,000 deductible so even if the smallest thing were to happen to either of us, it would be extremely expensive.

  2. I’m so jealous of you Canadians and your free health insurance. I can’t even imagine such a thing. Luckily, nothing ever happened in my days of not having insurance and even now the closest I’ve come to the ER is urgent care which is covered by insurance. Glad it was nothing more serious…and that it was almost FREE 99.

    1. Us Canadians do have it pretty lucky in that regard. I’ll gladly pay $5 if that’s the case! It’s just funny that R works almost every day in a kitchen, and then he cuts himself at home while we’re relaxing.

  3. So jealous of your amazing healthcare! I went to the ER once after having food poisoning and becoming extremely ill. I was uninsured at the time and it cost $1,600. Luckily, I was considered low-income and it was forgiven. I did have to pay the $1,000 ambulance fee, also known as the most expensive car ride of my life. Glad that you and R are ok and that you are only out $5.

    1. $1000 for the ambulance?!? What, did they fly you there in a private jet? That is SO ridiculous! Thankfully they forgave most of that bill, but still!

  4. I used to be on the “no free healthcare” bandwagon but I think it was because I was scared of change. Honestly, I am thinking that we need to go more toward that route and convert it all! Because right now, I hate that my premiums have gone up just to pay for everyone’s else’s. We might as well all pay the same thing, and have it taken out of taxes, that way I don’t have to get mad when I see the bill every month! : ) And we did go to the ER and it cost us about $800 : )

    1. “Free” health care has it’s pros and cons. I’m glad this was (almost) free for us, but if he needed any sort of prescription we’d have to pay out of pocket for that because we don’t have insurance. (Mind you, it wouldn’t be the $800 you had to spend.) It’ll be interesting to see what happens with healthcare in the US over the next few years!

  5. We’ve been to the ER a couple of times for T, so I know what it’s like! We managed to get free parking though so cost = zero.

    I had to go to the doctor on my birthday a couple weeks ago – it was a Sunday evening – so had to pay $80 for the weekend/after hours fee.

    1. I’ve never heard of after hour fees before, is that a NZ thing or am I just out of the loop at health care practises? Regardless, it sucks having to pay for something that could be free, even if it is less than $100.

  6. Knock on wood, I have not ever had to go to the ER. I live in the US though and, even with the good health insurance I have through work, I absolutely know it would cost me an arm and a leg (no pun intended). My Dad had to go into the ER last year for his heart condition, and the nurses told him that if he didn’t have Medicare (the one for people over 65), it would have cost him over $15,000. Since he was over 65, it only cost him like $200 out of pocket. Pretty sweet (but only if you’re old here in the US).

    I’m sorry R had to get stitches, but I have to say I’m super jealous your health care system is that amazing (minus the attitude!) :)

  7. I’m laughing at the juice because I almost bought myself some two weeks ago. I went to get x-rays for my foot right after work, to ensure the ER doctor was still there and not just on call (small town living). I was starving by the time I left and so tempted to get an OJ but managed to resist until I got home!

    1. I knew as soon R started thinking we should go to the ER that I was going to get all squeamish and had planned to grab a juice from home before heading out… but in the chaos I forgot. $2 I could have saved, but still worth it!

  8. The U.S. is ridonkulus for healthcare costs. It’s so expensive, it isn’t even funny.

    I’m sorry about the wait you had to go through though. I know what it’s like… waiting and getting frustrated I mean. There are downsides to universal healthcare, of course but at least we have it.

    1. I couldn’t believe that we had to talk to 4 different people before any one even looked at his injury! Shouldn’t that be the first thing they do in the ER?

  9. Glad it wasn’t anything too serious in the end. A few years back my fiancé was in the hospital for a few weeks, and so I had it down pat on how to not pay any money while I was there. I would park at my school (because I already had a parking pass) and walk 15 minutes to the hospital (otherwise $10+/day). Then I’d pack a lunch so I didn’t end up at Tim Horton’s every day. It saved me so much money in the end which would have been an added stress on an already stressful situation. I cannot imagine being in a country where I then would have to whip out a credit card to pay deductibles, etc. This is one of the situations where I really love being Canadian.

    1. I thought about dropping him off and parking somewhere else (for free), but once we saw that there was only a few people in the waiting room, we guessed that it wouldn’t be a long wait. That and there really isn’t anywhere nearby that has free parking as it’s near a University and a whole lot of trees.

  10. Oh wow, I hope his finger heals fast! That’s awful. I’m really squeamish too, and I hate hospitals, so I hear you on that. I had to go to the ER with my ex once at like 3AM (he thought something was wrong with his appendix), and the wait time was horrific. He was in really bad pain, and we spent the entire night there, having him get tested for this and that, only to find out nothing was severely wrong. I don’t even remember what the diagnosis was, but 9 hours of waiting was insane! I’m glad your trip was only $5 though =).

  11. That’s some great service they gave you prior to even checking his finger. The healthcare in the US has to be high or else doctors cannot afford to drive in to work in their Porsche’s or Ferrari’s. They cannot go down in status it can hurt their feelings.

  12. I need to visit Canada. I recently went on a trip and met so many Canadians and they were so nice. Not only nice, they were a blast to hangout with. I can’t believe I’ve never visited Canada when it is so close to me.

  13. Ouch, sorry to hear about that. :( Last month, I was rushed to the hospital due to a very high fever 39.9 and pain of side back. I think I almost died during that time, plus the long hours of waiting while my mom fill up the information sheet! I was hospitalized for 5 days and it was covered by my health insurance.

  14. Jealous! I once busted my lip and went to the ER. I waited about five hours and then they tried to tell me they couldn’t give me stitches because it had been too long. I was like, WHAT? I’ve been waiting here for HOURS! Needless to say, I made sure I got stitched up.

  15. A couple years back Eric had a horrible asthma attack and couldn’t breath. He ended up in the ER and then being admitted for several days. I can’t remember how much that bill was, but he had “good” insurance and we ended up paying several thousand dollars, ugg. Glad R is OK!

  16. I was actually just going through my old legal files box last night and ran into my stacks and stacks of medical bills from my “I’m 24, I shouldn’t have cancer!” days. Frankly, I’ve never added everything up, but the surgery and hospital stay was over $50,000. I would say that overall it was probably about $75,000. This was 2005-2006, so today it would probably cost me twice that. That little “incident” is the most major reason I’m in my current financial situation. lol

  17. ER costs are pretty outlandish for sure. And when you have insurance, you really never know what the real cost is because there is no price transparency for the insured. You get the contracted rate, but that isn’t always the lowest cost.

    1. I can’t imagine having to worry to about paying for a visit to the ER. I don’t know how countries without “free” healthcare survive!

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