I want to share my experience of going to the emergency room. I will offer no opinion on the state of Healthcare in America; simply a recitation of the events of last night.
On Saturday, our family spent part of the day at the beach. It was our first ( and probably only) visit of the season. We had a great time, although my eldest had a little too much sea water go the wrong way after entering his mouth.
We didn’t think much of it at the time, but Kay-Kay began to develop a slight cough by Saturday evening. Thinking a good night’s rest would solve everything, we put him to bed a little earlier than usual. Unfortunately things weren’t any better Sunday morning. My wife and I decided to keep him back from Church. By mid-afternoon, Kay-Kay’s cough got more persistent. Rest and lots of cartoons hadn’t cured him, so we decided to set up an appointment with the pediatrician in the AM.
But things took a turn for the worse during the night. Kay-Kay woke up around 10:30 pm with severe shortness of breath. He is a good sleeper, so for him to wake up meant he was having quite a bit of difficulty. With no other viable options, the decision was made to take him to the ER. We’re fortunate to live a 15-minute walk away from the regional children hospital.
Kay-Kay and I arrived at the ER waiting room around 10:55 pm. There was a woman in her mid-50s ahead of me, waiting to check in. No one was on duty at the station, so we both waited. There were about 8 other families with children sitting in the waiting room while The Princess Diaries played on a fairly new Samsung flat panel TV. There was a Police Officer stationed near the front door. He was seated, while looking leisurely at his smart phone. At 11 pm the officer got up, and left the lobby, at which point a hospital employee took his place.
Meanwhile, the woman and I were still waiting at the counter to be checked in. Hospital employees were coming and going from the back office or a side door here or there, but still no one on duty. At one point, a curious hospital employee appeared from a back office, startled that we were waiting there. “Has anyone helped you yet?” The curious employee asked the woman. The woman nodded no. The curious employee remarked to an unseen colleague, “There are people waiting here to be checked in.” The unseen employee replied, “Oh.” The original curious employee returned and assisted the two of us who we’re waiting. No one had set eyes on Kay-Kay yet, and we’d been in the lobby over 10 minutes by this point.
After check-in, we went to the triage room. Here, Kay-Kay’s situation was evaluated, as well his vitals taken. The nurse at Triage asked me about our son’s medical history, any allergies, or current medication. We were ushered back to the treatment area, and given a room. On our way, we passed a nurse station, with about 8-9 nurses sitting or standing while conversing leisurely with one another. Once in our assigned room, two nurses and a Doctor on duty came in to further evaluate us. I was asked about Kay-Kay’s medical history, allergies, and medication usage again. The three of them were speaking to me at once about what would happen next. Kay-Kay would be given a series of respiratory treatments to help with his shortness of breath, and hopefully open his airways. Before the treatments were started, a 2nd Doctor on duty arrived. A third time I answered questions pertaining to Kay-Kay’s medical history, allergies, and medication usage. In addition to these, the 2nd Doctor asked about how many siblings Kay-Kay had, if they lived at home with him with my wife and I, and a bevy of other questions I do not recall. After this, our son’s respiratory treatments began. Liquid medicine was placed into a nebulizer for Kay-Kay to inhale, which would assist in opening up his airways.
After a few rounds of treatment, the 2nd Doctor on Duty returned with a 3rd Doctor on duty. The 3rd Doctor on Duty listened to Kay-Kay’s lungs, and then left the room with the 2nd Doctor on Duty. Next, one of the earlier Nurses returned with a vial of clear liquid. She approached us and instructed Kay-Kay to open his mouth and swallow. Before he or I could react, the nurse injected the liquid into Kay-Kay’s unsuspecting mouth, which flowed right out onto his shirt and pants. “Oh, you were supposed to swallow that. There are only two ways to take the medicine: by mouth, or through a shot. Do you want to try this again, or the shot?” My son, half delirious, didn’t even respond. I said, “Kay-Kay, I need you to drink this medicine so you can feel better and we can go home.” The nurse informed us that she would find another dose, and be back to try again later.
There was a relative lull while the inhalation medicine was given the opportunity to work. One of the side effects of a steroid is an increase in heart rate, as it objective is to open the airways for increased flow. This fact made sleep or any rest for Kay-Kay difficult, as the body attempted to fight it’s own natural tendencies.
By this point, the clock had reached 2:30 am. I was trying to stay awake, but fatigue was fast setting in. We had gotten things down to a routine: 2nd & 3rd Physicians on duty would check Kay-Kay’s breathing and heart rate, followed by the respiratory nurse who administered the medicine by nebulizer. An hour was allowed for the dose to take effect, before the process was rinsed and repeated. After the third round, the 2nd and 3rd attending physicians informed me that the medicine was no longer bringing his heart rate down or impacting his respiration. They would prefer his inhale/exhale rate to return to normal before deciding on whether to discharge us, or admit us into the hospital (I forgot we were still in ER). I thanked them for the update and shut the door behind them. “What’s taking so long? When can we go home?” Kay-Kay exclaimed. “I don’t know son; the Doctors want to make sure you’re feeling better before we can leave.” I felt for him. I encouraged Kay-Kay to get some rest, while I used the TV to stay awake. I watched:
- Super Buddies
- chicken little
- Fast Five
As well as whatever cartoons were on PBS when Kay-Kay awoke.
At 5:30 am, a 4th attending physician entered our room. After introducing himself, he reiterated the concerns of his colleagues that the medicine was no longer improving our son’s breathing. Their thinking was to discharge us with an inhaler to administer at home every 4 hours, and continue to monitor him closely. Shortly after this, one of the nurses brought us the medicine,with a script for an oral application to improve Kay-Kay’s breathing. I thanked her as we exited the ER sliding doors.
As I glanced to my right, the clock showed 6:03 am.