At what point is a situation considered an emergency?
Seems simple enough, right? You get the sniffles, you probably don’t need to seek medical assistance. Your buddy shoots you in the groin with a potato gun from a close distance, you probably want to go get your groin checked out after.
As adults, we know enough about ourselves that when something is seriously wrong, we can take the appropriate course of action. Kids, however, until they reach a certain age, they ain’t like that. They are totally dependent on you. So when something is wrong with them, like an illness, they can’t communicate to you what needs to be done. It’s up to you, as a parent, to figure that out.
I’ve come to realize, that unless you’re a trained medical professional, trying to take care of your unwell child is a lot of guesswork. You analyze the symptoms, maybe talk to someone, Google some information, and attempt to take care of the situation. At the end of the day, though, all you can really do is trust your parental instincts. You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m learning this parenting stuff on the fly. My instincts are pretty sorry, no doubt, but luckily enough for me, K has enough for both of us. So when something is wrong with B or J, we’ve guessed right more often than not. There’s really only been one instance where our instincts were wrong, and we should have went to the doctor sooner than we did (that’s a story for another day. Don’t worry, everybody was just fine).
But back to my original question – when is a situation an emergency then? Now that is always a tough call. One time, with B, when he was less than a year old, he had a fever that kept skyrocketing. K and I remembered some advice for fevers from our prenatal class, so we followed that. When his fever reached a certain level, like 104 degrees, we decided that we needed to go to the emergency room. Turns out that the advice we got was apparently wrong, and we got a ‘WTF? Why did you do that?’ reaction from the nurses. That’s the besides the point, though (Do you mask a fever, or let it ride? No really, I have no clue. I’ve gotten conflicting answers). That situation reached a level where it was an emergency.
On the other hand, there’s been a bunch of times where the kids were sick, and K and I had to debate whether a trip to the hospital was warranted, but ultimately decided against it. There’s no easy way around it. Every illness is different, and requires a different judgement call.
I can count on one hand the number of times where we’ve had to take B or J to the emergency room. The good thing is that each time, we didn’t walk out of the hospital feeling like we wasted the doctors’ and nurses’ time. That’s the other part of the equation; when you guess wrong, and your kid’s situation isn’t at the emergency level, so then you feel like a guilty, stupid burden on the healthcare system. When we’re talking about your kid’s well-being, that obviously shouldn’t matter. It still sucks when the doctor pats you on the back and says to go home and make sure your child gets lost of rest, while they roll their eyes at you. And you definitely don’t want to get to the point where you are on a first name basis with the staff, due to your frequent visits at the slightest cough.
So between the guesswork and the
totally justifiable irrational worrying about the nurses and doctors making fun of you, assessing what constitutes an emergency, isn’t easy, for real. I’ve mentioned before, that one of my fears when I’m by myself with B and J, is something bad happening to them. It’s that fear of the unknown, just not knowing what I’d do, or how I’d react, or handle the problem. It’s the fear of making the wrong decision, and what the consequences would be. Situations can turn tragic quickly and easily. Just scary thoughts, man.
Unfortunately, my parental instincts were put to the test a couple of weeks ago.
It was a routine Saturday. K had dinner plans with some friends, and I was just going to stay in with the kiddos. B and J were playing nicely together, but then around 4:00pm, B barfed on the floor, out of nowhere. Awesome. I cleaned him up, then started to work on the floor, but then not long after, he barfed again. I figured it was something he ate, as he was acting like his normal self. Anyway, we threw him in the tub. K asked if she should cancel her plans. My decision? I told her nope. Go out, he’s probably fine, I’ll just keep an eye on him, I said. Anyway, we cleaned B up, got him dressed then told him to rest in his room. He proceeded to throw up again. More cleaning up, but this time, I plopped him in our room. K again asked if she should stay home, and I again said nope, so she was on her way.
B drank some water and was watching TV on our bed, while I sort of entertained J. Suddenly, he threw up again, all over our bed. I replaced the sheets, and grabbed a toy bucket, and told him to use that if he felt sick again. Within seconds, he threw up into the bucket. And then he did it again. I was super confused and worried by this point. He was whiny, but he was still talking to me coherently. He wasn’t burning up or anything like that, either, so I was still going with the idea that he must have eaten something that didn’t sit right.
J, however, was also starting to whine. Not because she was sick, but because she was hungry. I quickly rushed to scrounge up something passable for dinner for her, and when I came back, there was more puke all over the bed. While J happily sang and ate her food, I cleaned up B again, and replaced the bed sheets. He threw up again into the bucket while I was doing this. I ran to get him some ice chips, which he refused to eat. Don’t blame him. From his perspective, the water I gave him didn’t go so well, so why would he trust me with anything else?
Not going to front, I had an overwhelming sense of panic come over me. This was bananas. Why was he throwing up so much? Where was it all coming from? My next (stupid) decision was that I needed to put J to bed, so I could worry only about B for the night. First, though, I figured that I’d call Telehealth (Telehealth is a service that we have in Canada, where you can call and talk to a registered nurse, and ask for health advice). While I was on the phone, I went to get PJs for J. When I came back to our room, B, who had been flat down on his stomach, bucket by his head, dry heaving into it, started rolling his eyes into the back of his head, like the wrestler the Undertaker. WTF! So between the eye rolling, and the Exorcist-level vomiting, I was freaked out to the extreme. B was not even making any sense. He was too sick to communicate clearly. He was just mumbling incoherently between the throwing up. His vomit also was changing colour. I cut the Telehealth nurse off and told her that I needed to get to a hospital.
But more decisions! How do I get to a hospital? I quickly estimated that by the time I called for an ambulance, and it got to our house, I could make a decent chunk of the way there myself, if I drove. So I scooped up J, put her in my car, scooped up B (who threw up all over me, and in the garage) loaded him up, and we were off. I’ll tell you what, man, alone with my thoughts, flying down the dark country roads, I was thinking of the most messed up things. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the poor kid, and all I could think of was maybe organ failure from dehydration, or maybe he was possessed, or maybe he caught some rare incurable disease. I was retracing my decisions and what I could have done differently. Just craziness. My heart was pounding like I don’t remember it ever pounding before. I tried to converse with B, but he was barely audible. J was having the time of her life, go figure. Obliviously laughing and chatting away. And then she fell asleep randomly. I couldn’t get to the hospital soon enough…
I did call K, and filled her in on what was going on, and she met me at the children’s emergency entrance. I took J to K’s mom, and hurried back to the hospital. Didn’t even notice my pants were covered in barf until K told me. The staff talked to us, ran some tests, gave B some medicine for the nausea and hooked him up to an IV, to get some fluids in him. I’ve never simultaneously felt total relief but also like a failure, until seeing B with tubes sticking out of him while the IV machine beeped away.
The end result was that he caught a bad case of the flu, And was dehydrated. We went home later that night, but had to come back the next day, as a precaution. That was it. Not the most dire situation, but still an emergency situation to me. Funny thing was, two other families with small kids were admitted and sent home within minutes, while we were at the hospital, in the rooms beside us. One with a supposed allergic reaction, one because their baby was a bit sick. Hey, better to err on the side of caution, I guess.
I can honestly tell you, though, that from that experience, and my questionable decision making, I’m a better parent because of it. Clearly, the lesson learned is that K should never……eeeeever leave me alone with the kids again, right? Right?
Well…no, I guess not.
Final note – the next day, yours truly was chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, when, suddenly, I felt ill, and had to spend some quality time with the porcelain pool. I stumbled back to our bed, where B was still on the mend, watching TV.
B – ‘Are you sick, daddy?’
M (moaning) – ‘Yeah, buddy, I threw up a lot just now.’
B – ‘You need a stuffy! That will make you feel better! Let me go get you one! Which one do you want?’
A stuffy is a stuffed animal. He took off to his room, and came back.
B – ‘Here daddy!’
He gave me his stuffed horse and Buzz Lightyear. And then he lied down beside me, holding his toy bear. Two sick homies, in bed, watching Disney Junior, cuddling stuffies. Not gonna lie, as bad as I felt, I did feel a bit better then.
Yo, that answers my question. At what point is a situation an emergency? When even a stuffy can’t make it any better.