Posted in parenting

The Emergency Room Blues

Being a mother of eight children, I’ve had my share of tales from the Emergency Room. Our first trip to an emergency room involved a dislocated elbow in our oldest child, an experience that would be repeated in at least two other children.  We have also had a bicycle accident that messed up our son’s knee, a severe burn on a daughter’s hands when she decided to light a rubber chicken on fire, a nasty looking cut from a metal pipe in a cow cage, a flap of skin covering a hole on another daughter’s leg. This was written last August after one of our more frustrating hospital visits, when Emily stepped on a bat at the local pool and was bitten:

I took Emily to the doctor at 1:50 this afternoon and the doctor checked her foot, asked her a few questions about the “incident”, and agreed that Emily needed rabies shots. The nurse checked all the area hospitals and found out we had to go to Dubuque E.R. to get the initial shots (one rabies and a globulin shot)

“Head over the now,” she said, “They are waiting for you.” (less true words were never spoken)

We got there at 2:45 and after checking her in, they put us in a waiting room for the doctor. Maybe 15 minutes later the doctor appeared, asked a few questions and agreed she needed the series of rabies shots and he’d get those ordered. 15 minutes later a nurse appears and starts asking questions and tells us the doctor will be in soon. I tell her he has already been in and agreed she needed shots. Surprised, she tells us she will get that taken care of. Abby, Katie and I are doing fine. Everything seems to be moving along smoothly.

We watch patients come and go. We see nurses and doctors enjoy many, many beverages in the “Nourishment” room across the hall, including the nurses and doctors we have already seen. We joke and laugh and start to get silly. Minutes pass fairly quickly at first, then after an hour of waiting, much more slowly. After an hour and a half, I start to feel a little crazy. We see patients who arrived after us leaving, nurses leaving for home, the cleaning lady that went past half a dozen times goes home. Two hours have passed before yet another nurse comes in the room and announces, “Time for your x-ray.”

“X-ray? What x-ray?” I almost bellow.

She looks at me like I have two heads.

“Of her foot. The doctor ordered an x-ray of her foot.”

“Why?” I am incredulous.

“Because there might be something in it.”

“Like what? Something bit her.” I responded, less than cordially.

“Like a bat tooth.”

A bat tooth? Was she kidding? A bat bit her and its tooth fell off in her foot?

“Um, NO, we have been here for over 2 hours for rabies shots and you want to x-ray her foot? NO,” I stated emphatically.

Now the nurse did not look friendly at all.

“Well, if you want to deny your daughter medical care that was ordered, then I can have someone come in and talk to you, but the doctor is with another patient right now.”

I imagined another 2 hour wait.

“No, I don’t want to sit her for another two hours. Explain to me why an x-ray is needed.”

“In case something is in there. It would get infected.”
Like a bat tooth.

I agreed to the x-ray and she took Emily away. When she returned she told us the doctor would be with us soon.

Suffice to say, he wasn’t.

I seriously started to feel a little crazy. I took a Tylenol bottle out of my purse and started shaking it. I stomped my foot. We thought maybe if we made a little noise someone would come see what was going on. We wondered if Abby was with us, asking questions and testing the machines, they would have gotten to us sooner. The girls and I imagined possible scenarios to amuse ourselves. (the guy in the waiting room next to us, who was also sticking his head out the door looking for nurses or doctors to help was going to pull a gun out and shoot everybody. Where would we hide? The people that were being wheeled through the big doors were being taken to a dumpster in back and disposed of… The one we saw being wheeled back was still moving so they decided to return him to his room…)

Finally, finally, the doctor appears with a huge shot in his hand, a nurse following with two smaller shots. Emily’s eyes get huge. “This will go directly in your foot, where the wound is. It is going to hurt really, really bad, and you can scream but don’t move your foot. When they say rabies shots really hurt, this is why they say it” I put my hand on her arm, worried. She bravely nodded.

“Burning now,” he said as he stuck the needle inside her foot, “Go ahead and scream.” Emily didn’t. Instead, she glanced down and watched him stick the needle in her foot.

“I’d be screaming by now,” he said, “Go ahead and scream.” Then he pulled the needle out, looked at her, and started muttering “have to get in deeper,” and stuck the needle in again, Emily watching all the while. (I felt dizzy by now)

The other two shots were given by the nurse into Emily’s shoulders. Emily’s foot is huge and swollen.

“We’ll see you in a few days,” the doctor said, and I told him I understood we could get the remaining shots in Dyersville instead of having to drive all the way to Dubuque.

“I don’t think so, but the nurse can check for you,” he said as he disappeared out the door. A door I wanted to kick shut behind him.

The nurse left for a few minutes and came back with a sheaf of papers. “Yes, you can get the shots at your hospital,” she said as she handed them to me to sign. “Here is the schedule,” she said as she handed me a pen. I glanced down. The hospital listed for Emily’s shots was in GRAND RIVER, IOWA, not Dyersville. I corrected her. She crossed it out and wrote Dyersville.

And no one gave us any results of the x-rays.

I would later discover that the dates written down for the series of shots were totally inaccurate, a point I had to clarify before the next shot was given. I was aware of that since we’d been down the rabies shot road before and I knew it had to be a specific schedule, with a certain amount of days between.

So, with such a negative (and inept) emergency room experience so recently behind us I can be forgiven for delaying Abby’s medical care last night. Did she really have to go to the emergency room when she slid on some books on the carpet last night and landed on the side of her foot, screaming in pain? I hesitated long enough for her to jump up on a chair and ask to watch television. If she wanted to watch television, she was probably fine, right?  Two Sponge-Bobs later, she was whimpering for some Tylenol.  It was then I checked her foot. The side of her ankle was swollen badly.  I had my Bad Mommy moment. What kind of mother ignores a child’s screams of pain and plops them in front of the television?

A mother on her last nerve, that’s what.  My daughter Beth had just asked me yesterday afternoon if Abby and Katie were even walking.

“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.  Walking where?  We hadn’t taken a walk in weeks. The one walk we’d taken was so frustrating with avoiding the ice on the sidewalks, I hadn’t tried it again.

“Becca (my granddaughter who is three months younger than my youngest) isn’t walking through the house. She is jumping, climbing, and running.  All the kids are. They can’t even sit still or walk around like normal people, they have to jump or run.”

Ah, the stir-crazy syndrome from cabin fever. Yes, now that she mentioned it, I realized my children had it too.  They couldn’t sit still, were constantly jumping and running and bouncing off the walls.  Abby even jumped into bed each night, when you would think she’d be tired after a long day.  A really long day.  Because that is what winter is in Iowa, especially recently; a series of very long days.

And just a few hours later, we ended up taking Abby to the emergency room for what could only be described as a stir-crazy, cabin-fever related incident. 

“So what happened here?” the doctor greeted Abby cheerfully, and I let Abby respond. (I know the drill. The doctor wants the child’s side of the story on the off-chance it differs from the guilty parent’s version)

“I slid on some books.”  The doctor looked at me quizzically.

“She was running and jumping and slid on a pile of books that were on the floor. ”

“A math book, ” I was quick to add, for no apparent reason other than my tendency to over-elaborate. That, and I wanted the doctor to see that I was a good mother, a mother that does math with her daughter. Not a mother who lets her child sit and watch television for an hour after an injury, an injury that continued to painfully swell in the meantime.

This was one of our more pleasant hospital emergency room visits; we were in and out within and hour, the x-rays were warranted and showed little beyond what the doctor called a “buckle break” that would heal on its own.  “Just sit on the couch and watch t.v. for a couple days,” he told Abby.

“Or do math,” he said, winking at me.

Abby crawled down the stairs this morning and is planted in Daddy’s big brown chair, watching television. 

Maybe we’ll skip math today. Those math textbooks can be dangerous.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Certified grief counselor and Senior Service librarian for the James Kennedy Public library. Popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing, couponing, utilizing your creativity in everyday life, and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015. Grief journal to be released in 2018.

3 thoughts on “The Emergency Room Blues

  1. My dd is 15 and isn’t walking either. Yesterday she came home from school and said that she is tired of sitting in class and then coming home and sitting and doing homework. There is so much snow outside that taking a walk isn’t really that fun. Last night dd was skipping around the house. I was on the couch cutting coupons and she skipped by me and I asked what she was doing. She said that she has energy to burn. She burned it off, finished her homework, had a snack , took her shower and went to bed. She will probably do the same today when she comes home.

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