The Great Parental Dilemma - When to seek emergency medical care!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Life was much simpler when my children were nursing infants. They screamed with fear, pain, anger, boredom, illness, etc. - and my response was the same. Let them nurse. Bingo. Problem solved. 

These days when they cry I stand there like an idiot, wondering what I'm supposed to do. Nursing no longer seems to be an option - and could possibly get me arrested. But I have this deep rooted aversion to hearing my offspring cry with pain  - and I want a magic wand to make all the bad stuff go away, instantly. 

It doesn't help that most of my children have a pain threshold of negative seven.  And dubious judgement. 

Case in point: my son is known for comedic exaggeration of injuries. A neighbor has forbidden him from using their trampoline because he's always (and immediately) getting hurt on it. No bruises ever form, mind you. The day he tore up his knee in three places he calmly informed me he'd fallen and hurt his knee. I said something brilliant like "Ok" and totally ignored it. He still has the scars - and they're wide, nasty ones.

Bad Mommy.

When my oldest sliced open her palm helping me move an air conditioner I tried to stop the bleeding, then, when that didn't work, took her to the ER. Three hours later, when we finally saw the doctor, the wound resembled a mosquito bite and I looked like an idiot. The following month when I had to dig her out from under a toppled golf cart I washed the mud and blood off of her and sent her on her way. You guessed it - nasty scar on her leg.

I just can't win. It would help if my kids would have the decency to injure themselves during their doctor's office hours.  But they're more likely to decide they're dying on a Friday evening of a holiday weekend.

And what about when there's no blood, just pain? I've taken my daughter to the ER after she's screamed for three hours with stomach pains and, after losing 3/4 of a day find out there is nothing wrong with her. (and while the nurses are very nice - I feel like an idiot) But I can't handle their pain - and am terrified that THIS time, unlike the preceding 317 times, it will be serious and they really NEED emergency care. 

This past weekend my daughter pulled the screaming in agony card - again. Her shoulder hurt Friday night and Saturday morning, and I applied heat and went on my merry way. By the time I arrived home she had been screaming and crying for two plus hours - but hadn't been able to reach me via cell (she called the wrong number). The tears, combined with my guilt, had us heading for our home away from home - the ER room at Union Hospital in Elkton, MD.  The ER parking lot was PACKED, and was the waiting room. We signed in and found seats, while listening to folks complain about how long they had been waiting. I groaned and hauled out the Kindle to read. This hospital is good about triage, and within 15 minutes we were seeing the triage nurse (the long wait comes after this, unless your have symptoms of heart attack, stroke, or kidney stones. Then you get fast-tracked). 

It turnes out that just TWO days previously, Union Hospital had unveiled a pediatric ER - and we were sent there immediately following triage. No other pediatric patients so we were put in a room immediately (my tall daughter's feet almost fell off the bottom of the pint-sized bed).

Within 10 minutes she'd had an xray, and 10 minutes after that we knew she'd pulled a shoulder muscle during gym the day before. And that I, in my brilliant use of heat, had made it hurt more. One applies ice to pulled muscles, apparently. One hour and fifteen minutes after pulling up to the ER we were on the way home with a presecription and a gym excuse. We were both thrilled. The same people were STILL in the regular ER waiting room.....I tried to make a sad, sympathetic face as we strolled by. 

I still don't have any advice about WHEN to take your kid to the ER - except maybe ask me MY opinion, then do the exact opposite. That would work. I DO know that when an ER is needed, the pediatric ER at Union Hospital in Elkton is the place to go! Thank you seventh-grader Thomas McCusker, who set the whole project in motion and spear-headed donations; and thank you to local businesses who contributed so generously! 

Cecil Whig Photo by Adelma Gregory-Bunnell

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