Nobody wants to think about having to take their child to the hospital in an emergency, but kids do get hurt no matter how much babyproofing you do. Last week I had the unfortunate opportunity to take my own 2 1/2 year old son, Holden, to the emergency room after he suffered a bad fall that happened in the blink of an eye. The fall resulted in a Stage 3 Supracondryal Humeral Fracture (fancy term for severely broken elbow) and he wound up in surgery with three pins holding his bones together. During this harrowing experience, we got amazing last-minute help from friends and family, but it really got me thinking — how prepared are most families for a situation like this? What would you do if your child was in an emergency, especially if there is another child that needs to be cared for? Here are my top 5 lessons learned:
1. Know who your backups are My wonderful co-worker and friend, Lisa, watched our older son while I met my husband and Holden at the emergency room. It is important to know who you can call to be there in an instant to help with the non-injured child while you rush to the hospital. Make sure your children are familiar with this person and have some level of relationship with them, especially if it's someone they may see sleeping on the couch if they wander out in the middle of the night. Murphy's Law states that when you need your backup, they will probably be out of town or unavailable — so have more than one, and have their phone numbers readily available at all times. Make sure they know that you have chosen them for this important role!
2. Familiarize yourself with the hospitals in your area Holden had to be transferred from the hospital near our home to one with a pediatric orthopedic specialist who could do his surgery. This meant an ambulance ride, at 1:00 AM, to a hospital we knew nothing about and subsequent middle-of-the-night phone calls to our pediatrician to verify this was an OK thing to do. Don't assume that your child will be treated in the facility near your home. Learn which medical centers in your area have children's hospitals, and what they specialize in. Get recommendations from your pediatrician while your child is healthy for where you should go in an emergency.
3. Stock your medicine cabinet For minor bumps and scrapes at the playground, it's always helpful to have a stockpile of age-appropriate pain meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen in your medicine cabinet. Holden's doctor recommended good old children's Tylenol for pain relief after his surgery. Also helpful to have on hand are a first aid kit, Pedialyte (great for replenishing fluids after tummy viruses), various sizes of bandages and Neosporin. Check dates periodically to make sure everything you have is current, and replace any expired medications.
4. Carry a phone charger with you at all times Your phone becomes even more important in an emergency! From contacting your spouse to alert them something happened, to updating your family, to reading more about the injury (a supracondryal humeral WHAT?!?), your phone is your lifeline in an emergency. Since you have no idea when you'll be getting home again, you can steal some power anytime you're near an outlet if you have a phone charger with you. This can bring your parental anxiety level way down, trust me.
5. Download a medical history app Related to the lesson above, it's a good idea to have a record of your family's medical history available on your phone. We have the iPhone app My Medical which gives a profile to each family member where you can keep important information like blood type, past history, allergies, medications and more. It's hard to think straight when you're exhausted and nervous for your sweet and hurt little baby. Eliminate the need to remember such critical information and keep it with you on your phone!
Have you ever been in an emergency situation with your child? What helped you the most?