1. Know where to go. In the midst of an emergency, you don't have time to waste on logistics and details. Be proactive and do your research ahead of time when things are calm and normal. If (G-d forbid) an emergency strikes, you will be happy to have a plan in place.
For those of you with an HMO insurance plan, contact your insurer to find an urgent care close to you that is covered under your plan. You don't want to end up scrambling to find the closest location out of desperation, then paying for it later (literally and figuratively) when you learn it's not covered.
Those of us with HMO insurance plans don't have the luxury of popping in to any nearby urgent care. Those with PPO insurance plans, simply find the location you would want to visit in an emergency.
When your kid is bleeding, having trouble breathing, or incredibly sick - you need to know where to go without hesitation. Get the details sorted out and add the name, address, and phone number of the urgent care facility to your phone. You'll thank me later.
2. Know the route. We all know that kids like to get really sick and have nasty injuries on weekends or after doctor's hours. Is it a conspiracy? Are they planning it? Do they like throwing out curve balls? I don't know -- but what I do know is this: it takes me 15 minutes to drive to the Emergency Room (19 minutes with traffic).
Between both my twins, I have visited the ER three times in the mere 17 months they have been on this planet. THREE TIMES. Shit happens (mostly after hours) and I now know the quickest route to my trusty ER. In the dark. In the middle of the night. With at least one screaming baby.
3. You're in it for the long haul. Know that if you end up racing to the ER, you could be there all day (or all night depending on your arrival time). Getting in and out of the ER is a slow-moving process. You have to check in and wait your turn (even with a screaming baby/child that is visibly in need of medical attention). You have to be assessed and then given a bed. You have to wait for a nurse to asses you. You have to wait for a doctor to asses you. You have to wait for any treatments, tests or medications that are ordered. And lastly, you have to wait to either be discharged, or to be admitted to the hospital. Both options can take a long time.
If at all possible, grab snacks and water, bottles if you have a baby, extra clothes in case someone throws up or gets dirty, and some form of entertainment/distraction on your way out the door. Luckily, for my most recent trip to the ER I was pretty prepared. My baby had been sick for days with respiratory problems and wheezing -- and she was getting notably worse. Before going to bed, I packed a bag of everything I might need to get her to the ER in a hurry. When I finally made the decision to take her in around 4 a.m., I was glad to be able to throw on clothes and run out the door.
Being in the ER with a kid is an emotionally exhausting and physically taxing experience. For whatever reason you're there, you've probably lost some sleep... and gained some anxiety. Just know that you're in it for the long haul.
4. The answer isn't always laid out in front of you. "Should we go? Is it that bad? Can we wait until morning? Can we wait until the doctor's office opens?" These are all the questions my husband and I throw out as we struggle to make the right choice. Unfortunately, the signs of a true respiratory emergency in young children can be fuzzy and complicated.
"What's considered a coughing fit? She's coughing a lot, but is that a fit? She's working hard to breathe, but is she working so hard that we need to head for help? Should we wait to see if this breathing treatment will kick in? Should it be taking this long to work?" Deciding to head to the ER can be a stressful and rushed, yet complex decision.
My sister with three children (one of whom has battled respiratory problems his entire life) offered me this wisdom, "You will know in your gut if it's the right thing to do. It will not be a mistake to take your child to the ER." And so with that advice, and the mom intuition that sits inside of you, I leave you to assess the symptoms and do what you think is right. I know from experience, the answer won't always come easy.
5. This too shall pass. When your child is sick, hurting and scared, you will feel powerless, overwhelmed and angry. Continue to move forward, and keep this in the back of your restless mind: This too shall pass.
In most cases, illnesses will dissipate with medication and time. Broken bones, cuts, and injuries will mend and heal. Appetites will become restored. Sleep patterns will quietly return. Uncertainties will wash away. Your life might currently consist of suctioning noses, wiping snot, administering medication to an unruly toddler, keeping the sick entertained, trekking to doctor's appointments, begging someone to take "one more bite," and struggling with your own dose of cabin fever -- but it won't last. While things may really suck right now, they will get better. Just wait.
And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through... You won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about. - Haruki Murakami