I’m praying that this post goes viral. Not for notoriety. Not for fame and fortune. Not with the hopes I get to speak to more groups (okay, maybe this one just a little). But I hope this post goes viral because if the medical world can learn from the 4 hours I spent in an ER, maybe it will change the experiences families around the world have and make at least one thing in our lives immensely easier!
The phone rang just after noon yesterday and I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I glanced at the source of the noise and almost hit the ignore button until I saw the number. My son’s school…damn. Parents, you know the dread of seeing the school’s number showing up on your phone. I answered and held my breath hoping it was one of those automated calls about some upcoming bake sale or something. I held out hope until I heard, “Jack is fine…”. Ahhh, breathe, Chris, breathe, he’s fine. I know this means he isn’t bleeding or needing an ambulance but I also know the teacher doesn’t call just to say hi. They proceeded to tell me that he got choked at lunch on an olive and was just not acting normal. They were concerned. Since he’s non-verbal, he couldn’t tell us if he was fine, so I headed to school and then straight to the ER.
Honestly, the thought of having to go to the ER made me cringe. My son gets choked often…he hates chewing and avoids it whenever he can, so this trip isn’t a new one. I just knew that, at minimum, x-rays were in our future. The last visit was just a few months ago when he decided to eat a long, diamond shaped, green bead. We’re guessing he thought it was a fruit snack, but, he’s really not picky, so he may have just wanted to see what a long, diamond shaped, green bead tasted like. That visit was not the best. The x-ray tech decided that instead of discussing how to handle him, she’d call security to restrain him during the x-ray. Ha! No, not happening, not a chance, not on this mama’s watch!
So, it was with much trepidation that I drove to the building right next to the school and parked in the ER lot…at least the location is convenient. The waiting room was pretty full and this visit was looking even more grim than expected. He’s not a patient boy. He’s not overly compliant when being impatient.
We checked in, waited and, amen, hallelujah, 15 minutes later, they took us back. These doctors and nurses were busy! B-U-S-Y! There was some woman yelling about her meds, standing in the middle of the ER by the desks surrounded by police while the doctor tried to calm her down. Victims of a car accident were rolling in. It was a little nutty and I knew we were in for a longer than expected visit.
I brought out the tablet and settled in for a nice long wait. Within minutes, a kind nurse came in and sat down. She looked at Jack and said “Hello, my name is Emily.” Jack is non verbal. Jack was staring at the floor with his hands in his mouth as he tends to do when bored or anxious. He reached his hand out to shake Emily’s hand, appropriately, like he has been taught (way to go teachers!) and as I went to block the spit from trailing all over this unsuspecting nurse’s arm, that beautiful nurse took his slimy, wet, spit smelling hand and shook it. That’s right. She shook his hand without a flinch. She then asked Jack what happened. Yep. She spoke right to him. It was as if he was a real person, like a real live human with thoughts and feelings. (Insert sarcasm!) No one ever does that! They act like he doesn’t understand or know anything! Mother Mary and Joseph, I about cried right there!
I answered for Jack because, well, he can’t speak. She responded to him…to HIM! This appointment continued on in this way. Every nurse, doctor, tech, receptionist, every person more angelic than the last. I want to share this because EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR, NURSE AND TECH NEEDS TO LEARN FROM MY EXPERIENCE!
Jack is not an easy kid when he’s in a new environment and required to sit, be quiet and do what he’s told ESPECIALLY when no food is allowed to keep him occupied. This child was there for over 4 hours yesterday…four hours. The entire staff was awesome. They were patient with him (and me). They were respectful of his needs (and mine). And here’s the best thing…they asked for my opinion and when I gave suggestions, they didn’t get the all “I have the medical degree, shut it, you’re just a mom” attitude. They actually listened and included me on decision making! Yesterday, at an ER in a small hospital in a small town in the middle of nowhere, these amazing and crazy busy women did all of this:
1. They let him listen to Baby Shark like 1,000 times without screaming. A couple nurses even joined in.
2. They listened when I told them how we should hold him down while inserting the IV. For the record, this means me standing on the bed, climbing behind him, wrapping my legs around his like a snake, holding his left arm tightly with my left arm and wrapping my right arm around his waist while they do what they need to do with the needle. It looks rather ludicrous, but it works…I’ve done it many times! And, if this speaking gig doesn’t work, I may look into a career as a wrestler!
3. They let me, essentially, get on the table during the CT scan to hold his head in position and still and trusted me to do it. They actually asked if I’d mind!
4. When I told them he’d rip the IV out and suggested a splint and an ACE bandage to place on his arms to prohibit said tearing out of IV, they said great idea and did it.
5. When I told them Benadryl usually knocks him out, they gave it a try when Lorazepam and 3 doses of Fentanyl didn’t calm him down.
6. They gave him warm blankets when I said he likes to cuddle.
20 years into this, I know my kid and I know what is and isn’t going to work. I’m not a doctor, so the medical stuff is on them, but managing the behavior, manipulation and restraint of this child, I have some knowledge.
So grateful for these medical professionals and the experience we had yesterday!! ❤
I would like to share 5 things that I hope all medical professionals gain from this post:
- We are tired…emotionally, physically and mentally. An ER or doctor visit is not pleasant for anyone and for families like ours, it’s often a literal nightmare. It’s exhausting. It’s daunting. It’s frightening. Be patient with all of us, please.
- We know our kids. I know that some parents can be obnoxious. I know that some kids are much better when parents aren’t around. But, we know our kids. I can’t even count how many times my son has had to visit an ER. There was once when he decided to eat a piece of a poster. The ER said the x-rays were clear, but I knew something was not right. He was swallowing different, drooling more and had an odd look on his face. They trusted me and sent us to a bigger hospital by ambulance. They did another x-ray and still couldn’t see anything. But an intern looked down his throat with a scope and for a brief second she saw something flutter. The poster. Had she not seen that, he could have died. Trust parents.
- Listen to parents when they share their thoughts. Listen to parents when they share their observations. Listen to them when they share their concerns. Listen to them when they share their ideas. Sometimes, oftentimes, they are dead on accurate. Please, listen.
- Talk to the patient. They may not be able to speak back and that’s okay, we parents will speak for them. But they are living, breathing humans and deserve to be treated as such. Include the family and patient, if possible, in decision making.
- Have empathy. Understand that this is hard. This is a tough situation. Offer water or a blanket or a chair or a pillow. Offer to stay with the patient so the parent can go to the bathroom. Ask if there is anything you can do. Just show us you care.
Thank you Aurora Lakeland Medical Center in Elkhorn, WI! I hope that medical professionals around the world learn from your amazing service yesterday. You have a tough job and you handled it with grace and mercy yesterday! God Bless You all…
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Disclaimer: There are exceptions to every rule. Children and adults with disabilities are people with their own individual needs and desires. The ideas and advice given in this blog are for your consideration only and should not be taken as legal or educational advice, as every single situation is different.