Monday, May 10, 2010

Coping with a Child’s Medical Emergency: Part II

In our last post, we shared some tips that we hope you'll never need in dealing with a child’s medical emergency. I explained that I had been through my share of medical emergencies with both of my children, including a very scary set of fever-related seizures that my son had as a toddler. In this post, we’ll talk about what you might experience during and after the emergency room visit and share some tips to help you feel a bit more prepared.

1. Be patient.
Typically, when you come into the emergency room with a baby or a young child, you won’t have to wait very long before you are seen by a doctor. However, once the initial assessment is made, you may have to wait quite awhile before the doctor has enough information to determine the best treatment plan, especially if he or she needs to wait for test results.

2. Be ready to tell your story several times.
If the cause of your child’s medical emergency is not obvious, you may need to speak with several doctors, nurses, and technicians. You may find yourself repeatedly describing what you know about your child’s situation. While this may seem inefficient, getting information first hand is best. If staff members don’t seem friendly or understanding while they are asking you questions, keep in mind that they are doing everything they can to help your child as quickly as possible.

3. Make sure you have all the follow-up information and instructions with you when you leave the hospital.
Before you leave the hospital, you will be given a sheet of instructions, prescriptions, and any other information that you need until you see your baby's doctor for follow-up. Put these papers in an obvious and safe place so that you are sure to 1) keep them with you and 2) know where they are when you get home. With all the stress and excitement, it is very easy to lose track of important papers that you are given in the hospital.

4. Recognize that both you and your child will need time to recover.
Nearly all parents will find themselves emotionally spent after a child’s medical emergency. The adrenaline that kept you going will drain away, leaving you feeling exhausted, confused, and a little sick. If you haven’t already reached out for some help, you’ll want to do that for the first few hours (or even days) after you come home. You might find it hard to fall asleep but you should rest if you can, if only by sitting quietly. Though not all families will experience after-effects of a medical emergency, it is important to watch for any long-term changes in your child’s moods or behavior and discuss them with your child’s doctor. You also might find some changes in your own feelings and behavior and it is important that you share any lasting anxiety or concerns you might have with your own doctor.

As we wrap up this short series, let me say again that I hope that none of you will ever find yourself in an emergency room with your child. If you do, remember that you’ll need to stay focused, cooperative, patient, and aware of your child’s needs as you move through the worst moments. Once you get home, recognize that there might be emotional as well as physical effects of your ordeal as you work to put the emergency behind you. Watch for signs that anyone in your family is having a hard time coping with what happened and make sure they get the help they need.

Next time: Dealing with a baby who hates being drowsy.


  1. a short series maybe but one with lots of useful information.

  2. Another tip is make sure you have a little cash. When my older son broke his collar bone, we were at the ER so long, we had to eat dinner out of the vending machine.