There's really nothing to shave a few hours off your life like a medical emergency with your child, is there?
In short, my 8-year-old is fine (thank goodness). She's a healthy kid who's avoided any catastrophes thus far. Her big brother, on the other hand, has stamped his emergency-room card three times.
So I was only mildly concerned when in the bathroom at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near our hotel—we were on a quick getaway—my girl suddenly wasn't feeling well. As I steered her out of the restroom towards the exit for some air, she stumbled in the gift shop and collapsed, all dead weight, in my arms that fumbled to break her fall to the floor. Panicked, I went into Boss Mom mode, looking up to the nearest stranger and asking him to go get my husband, who was outside with my other two. We carried our girl outdoors and she lay on a bench, her brow sweating and her eyes rolling back in her head. While we had a quick discussion about getting her into our minivan and where the nearest hospital was, the kind staff at Cracker Barrel offered to call the medics for us. My daughter was just regaining her color and coming to when a squad car, a red fire truck, and an EMS vehicle all showed up, lights flashing and sirens wailing. I smoothed away the hair from her face as I cradled her head in my lap. "Can you believe this is all for you?" I whispered to her, mock wide-eyed, and she cracked a smile, to my relief.
Working at Parents I have exposure to so much helpful knowledge and am a pretty swift thinker in an emergency. But it can be hard to make smart decisions when it's your kid if you're scared and in an unfamiliar place. While we probably would have driven to the ER of the closest hospital, I'm glad the emergency medical technicians were there to guide us a few extra minutes away to the pediatric emergency room of Virtua Voorhees hospital, a New Jersey affiliate of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (CHOP was among Parents' "10 Best Children's Hospitals," an excellent story by my colleague Karen Cicero.) Picking a child-friendly ER if possible is the number-one piece of advice in a story Parents previously published, "20 Things to Know Before Taking Your Child to the ER." My big girl got a lift via stretcher into the ambulance, where I sat on a bench beside her. My husband followed with my 11-year-old, who worried quietly, and my 2-year-old, who cried because she of course wanted to ride in the ambulance, too. At the emergency room, we were seen quickly, received excellent care, and with a toddler up past her bedtime, I was grateful for even the small things that kept her occupied, like a wood puzzle on the wall. This visit—child-focused, efficient, attentive—was nothing like the five hours I once spent with my oldest years ago in the general emergency room of a large city hospital.
We have it lucky—our daughter's OK. For that and the kindness of strangers who helped us, I'm extremely grateful. On the dark ride back to our hotel, we were even able to smile about it, remembering that Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, one of our favorite stories, is also a "fainter."
Now we know if my daughter feels this way again, we should have her immediately lie down, or sit. (It's like the first time your child needs stitches, your stomach twists helplessly in knots. The second time, you call the plastic surgeon, whose number you've conveniently saved in your contacts list.) I'll be following up with our pediatrician, and remembering to inquire about where the closest pediatric emergency room is the next time we need to go. I'd like to think there won't be a "next time," but then again, we have children, so....
Have you been to the ER with your child? What was your experience like?