By: Kipp Tribble
You’ve got kids now and have somehow managed to not allow them to wander off in a K-Mart or crash their bicycle into the side of the house. But kids are kids and injuries are going to happen. Including ones you have to take a trip to the hospital to patch up. Newbie parents would think you simply take your child to the ER and everything sort of works itself out from there. Oh, what a fantasy world you live in, rookie. I, too, once thought this way. Then my daughter broke her arm. Little did I know I was about to step into a Health Care Inferno . Here are some things I learned from that experience that will help ease your pain while tending to your child’s pains.
This is not easy, but I was considerably better in this department than my wife was. When our daughter came in from playing outside sporting an arm that looked like Joe Theismann’s leg, my wife’s first reaction was, “Is it broken?” Then upon realizing she already knew the answer to that question, she began speaking in a language I believe has not even been discovered yet. I managed to get a better grip on myself. Besides, I didn’t speak that language anyway.
Keeping your wits about you helps calm your kid and you have to keep reassuring them that everything is going to be okay, despite the fact that you might want to throw up from seeing the injury. Your kid will be freaked out, crying, or in a state of shock. My daughter never cried, but was in some odd state of denial. You have to be ready for every stage of reactions — because there will be many throughout this process. Keeping your cool is the only way to make it through.
Know Where to Go
You need to know which Urgent Care places around town accept your insurance. We had the most popular insurance company in the nation behind us and yet I went to and got turned away from two Urgent Care places. The one we finally ended up at made us wait for an hour and a half, then did X-rays to tell us she had a broken arm. There was a sarcastic Sherlock remark on the tip of my tongue, but I swallowed it. Then they hit me with the wonderful little nugget that we had to then drive 30 miles to the only hospital in Los Angeles that could do the surgery that night. Awesome.
What did I learn from this? Go straight to the ER. You may wait for a while longer than you would in an Urgent Care facility, but your insurance will be taken. And then you will likely be given a room for surgery at that hospital, even if you have to wait 8 hours for the surgery to be scheduled. You’ll at least have the room and the nurses tending to your child. If the injury is more minor — sprains, minor stitches needed — Urgent Care is the way to go. Keep a list at home of all them that accept your insurance and keep that list updated, because insurance companies change all the time.
My daughter’s injury didn’t require an ambulance ride. That would have probably traumatized her even more. But getting a five-year-old in and out of a car seat — especially at the amount of stops we kept making — is not the easiest thing. I did the best I could, but she wasn’t exactly comfortable. And while you are in transit, that’s when much of the questions from the child will come. They will be wondering what’s going to happen, if they will have to get a shot…all those things that you don’t know the answer to yourself. Best thing to do? Lie. Lie and sugarcoat like you never have before.
What I learned afterwards, is I should have tied a bandana or sling around my kid’s torso and pinned the arm to her body. This would minimize the movement and I could get a seat belt around her a little easier. This works for arm injuries, but the principle can be applied to other injuries, too.
Ask Questions & Prepare to Answer Some
Doctors have done the medical thing a million times, so they don’t always offer up a full rundown of exactly what is going to happen during the ‘fix it’ portion of your hospital visit. In my case, it involved sedation and surgery. And I asked a lot of questions. Like, “where are the vending machines?” And a few others that involved the well-being of my daughter, of course. The doctor finally got the point and filled me in on what he was going to do. It involved putting in a bunch of pins to hold the bones together while they healed. This naturally brought an onslaught of even more questions from me.
Another element — one which I was not prepared for — was the ‘interrogation’ questions, which I later learned is standard procedure. My daughter was taken behind a curtain and questioned about the injury by a group of nurses. I was kept on the other side of the partition and asked the same questions by the doctor. I understand and appreciate that they do this, it’s just not something fun to go through. Especially when I didn’t even see the injury happen. When we asked her younger sister who it happened, she told us that a ‘big spider monster’ did it. I don’t think the doctor believed me when I told him that. I suggest going with a more straightforward answer. But be prepared to be grilled and don’t take it personally
Whatever your kid’s procedure will be, you will need to occupy yourself or else you will go crazy. In my case, I had a two-hour surgery to wait out. Of course, watching non-cable TV and sifting through the Sports Illustrated issues from 1998 only make the wait longer. I tried this. It sucks.
You are not allowed even remotely close to most of the room where the procedure is being done — unless it is a simple stitch up or something. But if you find yourself having to stay occupied, leave the hospital. Just on foot, so you can get back quickly, of course. The staff has your cell phone, so look for a Starbucks or mall or restaurant to hang out in. It will take you a few minutes to walk there and back, which will chip away at the time you are putting in. If you find yourself having to endure all this during the middle of the night when many places are closed, take a visit to the hospital cafeteria or the main lobby. There will be better TV and reading there, as well as more people to talk to. When you get bored with that, walk the hospital halls and give yourself a tour. If you can get roof access to take in the view and collect your thoughts, definitely do it. (Note: I did this and got a stern reprimand from the security guard. Proceed with caution.)
The surgery, or whatever, is over and you are back home. Now the healing begins, which brings with it a bit of drama because now your child knows they can milk the injury. And milk they will. You’ll be duped for a little while, but then you’ll realize what’s up.
This phase is also the one you are more equipped to handle because you now have the medicines, ointment, etc., to give them and the schedule of when to administer it. You also will have regular checkups to visit the doctor and make sure everything is patching up nicely. If you made it through the other stages of your kid’s injury, this will be a cakewalk.