What I learned in the Emergency Room, Pediatric ICU and the hospital this weekend!
In the spirit of my current efforts to promote kindness, generosity, assistance and information for today's busy mothers, I would like to share with you some of the things I learned and of which I was reminded while participating in this weekend's emergency health care crisis...especially as it relates our children. I will begin with a brief synopsis of the trauma event. I will also let you know in advance that all is well and everyone is home.
Last Friday, my son fell on his forehead. Hard. On concrete. In addition to the screaming, there was blood. Blood from his nose. It turns out, that is a good thing. Blood from ears is bad. I called 911. The police, fire department and EMT's arrived. There were no broken bones. There was no broken skin. My son was conscious and had not lost consciousness immediately after he fell. There was no vomiting. His eyes were responding properly to the penlight being flashed into his eyes. All good things. He wanted nothing to do with ice on the protruding bump growing from his forehead above his left eye. His neck, arms, legs and other bones, limbs and joints were fine. It was suggested that an ambulance was probably not necessary but an X-Ray or a CT scan was probably a good idea. It was now 6:45pm on Friday, the 13th. Sigh.
My husband and I decided to drive our son to the new urgent care facility that recently opened halfway between our house and the nearest hospital. I just happened to have their number programmed in my cell phone and I called them on the way. They normally close at 7pm and I wanted to see if they would wait for us. They would. We pulled into their parking lot and the staff was waiting at the door for us. My son was now getting sleepy...that concerned the doctor on staff. He was also worried about the swelling that was getting worse and affecting his left eye. Due to his concern, the doctor promptly sent us to the local hospital's emergency room. In a gesture of kindness and efficiency, the Urgent Care staff called the ER to let them know to expect us and provide them with some doctor's orders. What a time saver that small effort became for us!
It was 7:30pm when we pulled into the hospital's emergency room parking lot. Even with a room full of waiting people, the emergency room staff met us at the registration area and ushered us into the pediatric area of the ER. After a few minutes of waiting, there were introductions to various nurses, resident doctors and attending physicians. We repeated the story of the accident several times and no, he was not allergic to anything. They checked my son's temperature, eyes, limbs, responses, walking abilities, coordination, and oxygen levels. The hooked him up to monitors, inserted an IV catheter in his hand. That was a bit of a struggle. They ordered a CT scan...it took three of us to hold my son down and get him still enough for the scan to work.
The CT scan indicated that he had broken his left eyebrow bone and a hematoma (kinda like a bruise) between the inside of his skull and the membrane that protects the brain. The cracked eyebrow was going to be fine. However, it was the epidural hematoma landed my son in the pediatric intensive care unit for the next 36 hours. On Sunday, he was transferred to the general pediatric floor of the hospital and he was released Monday late afternoon. He is well and happy. When anyone would ask him what hurt, he would point to the scab on his pinky toe that was a result of smacking into his toy truck as he was running through the house on Tuesday. He thought he was getting all of this attention because of his toe "oowie". Amazingly, of the many things that could have gone badly, not one of them did. Angels or luck? I don't know but I will take them both!
Today, he is sporting quite a black eye and there is virtually no swelling on his forehead or around his eye. The knot on his head is almost gone. He is in no pain and he slept in until 10am this morning. In fact, he was quite peeved with me this morning when he was told that he could not go to school today. He wants to go and play with his classmates. Regular two year old tantrums, another good sign. His two year old body is healing with quickness and efficiency that I envy. My husband and I are relieved and exhausted...mentally more than physically.
So, here is some observations and suggestions that I would like to offer from this experience:
If you have children, it would be to everyone's benefit to establish a medical emergency plan of which your immediate family or close friends are aware and understand. You should also expect that you will probably use that plan before your children turn 18.
I strongly suggest that you take some time to visit your local emergency room and any local urgent care facilities. Go on a Wednesday morning when it is not busy. Verify that they take your insurance. Ask them about their check-in and emergency procedures. Take a look around and see if there are soda and/or snack machines. See if there are toys, magazines or TVs to help pass the time and keep children and husbands distracted. Ask about the use of cell phones and the availability of the internet and wireless internet access. Get the lay of the land. You can pretty much expect that your average urgent care visit runs about 2 1/2 hours and your average emergency room visit will run 5 hours minimum. Knowing what to expect will allow you to be as prepared as you are able in those few minutes between the accident and getting in the car or ambulance.
For my son, I was glad that I brought both his favorite blanket (his night-night) as well as a larger fleece blanket off of the couch. It gets cold in hospitals. I was also able to use the blankets to cover the x-ray and CT scan tables, making them a little less scary and uncomfortable. I was also glad that his diaper bag that had some toys, crackers, wipes, Purell and a couple of empty sippy cups. ALL ITEMS CAME IN HANDY. I was also glad that I ran upstairs and very quickly changed from running shorts and a tee shirt to sweat pants and a new tee shirt. I also grabbed a windbreaker. Those were my clothes for the next 24 hours and like I said, it is always cold in hospitals.
When doctors come in and go...it can get very confusing. When checking in, ask for a piece of paper and a pen if you don't have one in your purse or diaper bag. When doctors come in and present you with information, write it down. You think you will remember what they are saying but more often than not you may forget complicated terms or intricate procedure information. Write down the names of the doctors that are seeing your child, giving you information/diagnosis and making decisions regarding your child. Never, ever feel intimidated. Ask questions when you don't understand. Continue to ask questions and obtain additional clarification until you feel like you completely understand what is going on and what the plan is going to be. Politely, but firmly, insist that you are to be informed of and understand everything that is happening. Do not feel too rushed or too pushed into decisions with which you do not understand when giving your consent.
When emergencies happen, know who you are going to call from the hospital. This person should be someone who is able to be helpful, calm and of assistance. Be honest about this...some family members may not be the best candidate for this job. This person may be a neighbor, relative, co-worker, friend or even www.ExpectingExecutive.com. If necessary, this person should be able to make some telephone calls on your behalf, help with other children or pets, provide provisions, assist with out-of-town visitor logistics, look up information for you on the web, and provide support as requested. At Expecting Executive, through our SOS - Emergency Management program, we answer forwarded cell phone calls, set up an information telephone hotline or website, assist with travel arrangements, help coordinate meals and assistance, etc.
Emergencies are frightening experiences. But, there are a few things you can do now to more calmly and confidently face and manage such emergencies. Whether it is planning for your children, spouse, parents or other loved ones, be sure to occasionally review and update your medical emergency plans. A little bit of planning can reduce a whole bunch of stress!
Now how does this fit in with daycare? To all the guilt ridden working mothers who continually question their decision to enroll their children in daycare or other childcare...here is another benefit! Hands down, each healthcare provider I came in contact with appreciated the fact that my son would interact with them. When I asked various doctors and nurses, they all mentioned there was a noticeable difference when treating children who went to daycare or had non-family caregivers compared to stay at home children. Children who went to daycare were not only easier to treat but the experience was less traumatic for those children. Obviously, this is not a scientific study. However, if you are a stay at home mother with stay at home children, I strongly encourage you to make sure that your children have an opportunity to interact with and be cared for by other adults with whom you trust. When it comes to medical emergencies, you may not be able to be with your child during all procedures. It is to everyone's benefit if your child will allow a nurse or doctor to hold them and work with them without having to resort to sedation.
This experience reminded me that it truly does take a village to raise a child. Doctors, nurses, EMT's, police and fire personnel and eventually bus drivers, school teachers and other adults are part of your child's village. Practice with your children now to encourage trust and confidence between your children and those adults that may possibly save their life someday.
Be well! Erin @ www.expectingexecutive.com