It’s safe to say that none of us wants to make a trip to the emergency room because of a sick or hurt kid. In the last two weeks, I have gone twice, once with each kid, one pretty serious and one much less so but still necessary. Both of them are now completely recovered so I am able to look back on these last two weeks with less stress and more insight.
My spirited threenager had her first ride in an ambulance when a lightbulb exploded in her mouth. When you see your little girl spitting glass and blood you don’t have time to panic, you only act as fast as you can to pick the glass shards out while trying to keep her calm so she doesn’t swallow any. It’s not terrifying in that moment for you, but seeing her look up at you with those frightened eyes that say everything she can’t, tests your resolve and strength as a parent to protect her and make it all better.
I have to pause here and give an enormous thank you to the City of Minneapolis for their outstanding emergency services. My partner was still on the phone with 9-1-1 explaining the situation when I could hear the sirens on their way. From that phone call until getting checked in at the emergency room of Children’s Hospital was 12 minutes. TWELVE MINUTES! This is remarkable and something for which I am truly grateful. (Also noteworthy, and completely not fact-checked, is the high number of firewomen in our city – the three who walked into our house were a calming and efficient force!)
For a situation that could have ended in emergency surgery or worse, we were fortunate for quick-thinking, calm words and great care. And when I asked her how the ambulance ride was, she thought hard and responded with: “It was amazing.” So that doesn’t bode well.
The second trip was to treat croup in my little boy. It was his third ER visit for croup in his 14 short months, so much less scary this time around. I hear that barking strider cough and know to get up out of bed and just go. Cold air and steamy bathrooms don’t seem to help him, so we get a baby nebulizer and steroid at the hospital to take care of it right away. Croup definitely needs to be addressed because you don’t want breathing to get any harder, but it’s certainly not a lightbulb in the mouth. It is still clearly uncomfortable and scary for the little one though.
Unfortunately for you, the meds given to decrease the inflammation are a stimulant so any hope of snoozing in the hospital chair with a sleepy, feeling-better babe in your arms while under observation can be forgotten. Mine prefers to wander around the nurses station waving to everyone. Like he’s in a parade. At midnight. I literally asked the doctor when he would sleep again.
If you ever find yourself in a scary mom situation like one of these, here’s some advice from a mom who’s been there:
1) Always call 9-1-1, don’t even hesitate. In the moment of catastrophe, you’re not thinking clearly and likely can’t see all of the possible outcomes. We hadn’t thought about glass blocking her airways or her choking on blood. Let alone the possible chemical burns from the lightbulb (it was an old-school tungsten bulb, so thankfully no chemicals). Call and let the professionals come to you to help.
2) Bring sweaters, a favorite blanket, a lovey. Whatever will keep you and yours warm, it’s always chilly in the hospital, and comforted. Also, snacks for everyone.
3) Get to a children’s hospital. The huge benefit of going to one, if available, is that everything is geared toward kids. Obvious right? But it makes a huge difference in the moment – all of the medical equipment is kid-sized so the doctor isn’t scrambling to find the right tiny size. They have age-appropriate toys. The whole staff understands kids and speaks in their language so it’s a lot less scary.
4) Keep talking. Talk to your child throughout the whole situation, explaining everything so you both stay calm. The power of words is no joke. Talk to the emergency operator, the EMS, the nurses, the doctors – tell them everything even if it might not seem relevant to you. With this comes asking questions. It’s understandable that you might not be level-headed in this moment, ask as many clarifying questions as you need to.
Then when it is all over and everyone is safe, healthy and back home, give yourself a chance to decompress. That kind of intense, compressed stress can wreak havoc on you as a parent. Do what you need to for you. And hug your kiddos a little longer and stronger.