I’d never heard a child scream like that before.
My seven-year-old daughter had intended to plop herself down on the carpet, but didn’t realize that a doll bed was just behind her. The post of the bed stabbed her in the groin. And I do mean stabbed.
“MOM! HURRY! It’s BLEEDING!!!”
I sincerely hope you never need these tips for taking your child to the ER, but a quick read can make the trip easier on everyone in an urgent situation:
1. Be calm and present.
Stay with your child as much as possible. Send someone else (like a sibling) to get what you need so you can stay with your patient. If you are wondering whether or not it’s an ER worthy injury or illness, call the pediatrician or Urgent Care and they can let you know.
2. It’s ok to cry.
Seeing your child in pain and full of fear will get to you. I believe kids need to see our real emotions as well as how we manage them. While I wiped away tears, I think on of the most important things I did was to be direct about it with my daughter:
“I’m crying because you are hurt, not because I’m scared, ok? I want you to know that. I’m not scared because I know you are going to be ok. I’m crying because you are hurting right now and I really wish I could take it away.”
We were both much more calm after that.
3. Clean up blood right away.
Fresh blood came out of our carpet right away with just dish soap and water. I tossed her clothes in a bucket of cold water and they, too, were easily saved from stubborn blood stains. If you can, clean up before you go.
4. Pack a bag.
You can be in the ER for a LONG time, even if you are a small, bleeding child. (We were there for over four hours.) My other two girls jumped at the chance to help in what felt like a helpless situation, so ask siblings to pack a bag, if possible. Books and a special lovey might be all they need. Water and snacks are not a bad idea, but see below:
5. No food or drink.
Don’t let your child eat or drink until you have the ok from hospital staff. Eating can delay a procedure – even stitches. You don’t know if they will need to under some type of anesthesia, so no food or drinks is best. However, we were both glad to have a snack on the way home after the long ordeal.
6. What is the ER like?
On your way, explain to your child what to expect. Tell them you’ll have to check in and wait just like the doctor’s office. Then, you’ll get a room with a bed when they will see you as soon as they can. Anyone with a more serious injury or illness needs help first, so it can take awhile. You don’t want to be first in the ER!
7. Hospital staff is on your side.
Remember that the hospital staff is doing their best to help and always convey that attitude to your child. Let the nurses or doctors explain to your child what is going to happen. They are professionals who hand these situations everyday. They can stay calm and explain medical terms clearly. You should absolutely ask questions and be your child’s advocate, but remember to empower your child by asking what questions or concerns they have for the doctors or nurses.
8. This IS going to hurt.
Your child has to be able to trust you to feel secure. Give him or her the most accurate picture possible of what is going to happen. Make sure they know that they can feel scared, yet choose to be brave at the same time. Praying with my daughter definitely helped with her feelings of anxiety and fear.
Above all, answer your child’s questions as honestly as you can and take their concerns to heart. Be a trustworthy source of information and you’ll find a more secure and cooperative child. You can also ask staff to role play a procedure (such as getting an IV) on your child, you, or their special animal or doll. Just knowing what to expect, even if it’s going to be painful, can do wonders for a child’s courage.
9. Treat time!
Our doctor told us that after the whole ordeal, what our little patient will probably remember most was what treat, toy, or book they got afterward, so make it count. It’s the doctor’s orders!
10. Tell the story.
As a child, having doctors and nurses talk to you like like a grown up and commend your bravery makes you stand a little taller. Let your child hear you tell the story of the ER visit to loved ones with great pride. Let him or her take it on as their story of courage in the face of fear. This ER visit can become a story which strengthens your child’s character and view of community.
Have you been to the ER with your child?
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