Emergency room trips have been an unfortunate part of my parenting experience. My four children have found themselves waiting to have popcorn kernels removed from an ear, cuts glued, stitched and bones x-rayed and set. There was a ruptured appendix and a scary bout with pneumonia among other emergencies.
Over the years I have picked up a few tips to help make the trip to the ER less stressful. While nothing can quite prepare you for the emergency that pops up at random times, keep these ideas in the back of your mind when the unexpected happens.
Know your local hospitals.
When my son had an extreme stomach ache, I rushed him to the nearest emergency room. After eight hours of waiting, having tests performed and results analyzed, he was finally transferred to the hospital in the next town over. Technically just as far from my house as the one I took him to. At the time I did not know this particular hospital did not a children's unit and would not do his surgery.
I could have saved a lot of time and headache if only I had checked the hospitals policy before an emergency struck. Of course, in case of a real emergency, go to the closest hospital, but choose a hospital with a pediatric unit if possible. The E.R. is often set up in a much friendlier fashion and the nurses are more accustomed to dealing with children.
Sweep your cupboards
If your child takes any medication, take it with you. You may know the drug and the dose inside and out, until you have to recall it under pressure. Throw the bottles in a zip-loc bag and toss it in your purse on the way out the door if possible.
Another idea is to take a close-up photo of the medications when you fill the prescription to have the name and dose handy. The label also includes the pharmacy name and phone number which could be important as well.
Take a photo of the accident site, so the doctor can see how far your child fell, or what the ramp looked like. Even snapping a photo of a puzzle piece approximately the size your child swallowed can help the doctor figure out what you are trying to explain. If your child is having regular seizures or asthma attacks, and you can safely capture it on videotape, do it. Doctors are often working blind, any little help they can get helps.
If your doctor recommends a child is seen, they are more likely to move through the emergency room faster. At the very least, it can be helpful to let the E.R. know you are coming so they can be prepared for your arrival.
Long waits are inevitable. Pack favorite items to keep your child comforted and occupied while waiting. While they may not feel like playing, having something on hand just in case is better than coming empty handed. Waiting rooms often have a child section, but I feel more comfortable handing my child a stuffed toy from our collection, than grabbing a potentially germy toy from the bin. With as busy as the local E.R. can be, disinfecting toys after each and every child touches them is just not possible.
If the front desk is not listening to your concerns, and you have valid reason to believe your child is in danger, consider calling the patient advocate. In general most hospitals have one on call 24/7. Dial 0 on the waiting room phone and have the patient advocate paged.
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