Summer break officially started for the kids last Wednesday. The sun was shining, Ohio weather was finally on the same page as we were with the warmth you’d expect in May, and we were looking forward to a long three-day weekend with the family. What we ended up with instead was jumping headfirst into summer with three kids catching a really rough stomach bug. Damion and Delia bounced back after a couple of days with lots of rest, but poor Drew had a rougher go of getting back to normal, which had us ultimately making a visit to the emergency room late Sunday night with concerns of dehydration.
This was not our first rodeo with the ER; we have been a few times in the past for the other kids from various things like high fevers and a couple of incidences involving stitches, but this was Drew’s first trip to the ER. Taking a child to the ER is always pretty rough, but as with almost everything else, the disconnect we have in communication abilities with our boys always adds an extra layer of difficulty. Here are some good tips we have learned from our own experiences that have helped our boys get through these dreaded emergency room visits.
- Go to a Children’s Hospital
We definitely have learned this lesson the hard way. Even if the children’s hospital is a farther drive, it’s worth the extra time. I’m not saying that that a regular emergency room can’t help with the issue you are facing, but a children’s hospital is just better equipped with ways to specifically help those little ones. Damion has had to get stitches twice and the job done by the children’s hospital barely even left a scar. We unfortunately can’t say the same about the other stitches that were done at a regular ER. I am also not saying that the wait at a children’s ER will be any less than at another ER (I have yet to visit and ER that didn’t take at least three hours), but even the set up to help with wait times is modeled to help kids with TVs that have movies, music, or video games to help them pass the time.
- Try to Call Ahead
This method will not work every time, it surely didn’t get us anywhere for this most recent trip with Drew, but when Damion fell and needed stitches, we called ahead and told them the situation and they went ahead and signed us in which helped with our wait. I’m not sure if their policy changed or if a call ahead only works for certain situations, but I am a firm believer in the philosophy of “you will never know if you don’t ask”.
- Explain for your Child
Questions are not the strong suit for either of our boys on the spectrum. They may give you a response to a question, but that doesn’t always mean they understood the question. It just means that they knew you wanted a response, so they gave you one. A great example of this is yes/no questions. Our boys tend to answer all questions they don’t understand as “yes”, it is their go-to, but it is not always an accurate answer. So, if a nurse comes in and asks, “are you feeling better?”, or any other yes/no questions to your child directly, you need to explain the situation. Even if they have picture diagrams to help explain a question, your child may still not understand. Drew’s nurse had a card with faces to help give kids a good way to identify their pain scale. She asked Drew how he felt and then explained the pain scale to him wanting him to pick the corresponding happy or sad face to show how he felt. Drew said he felt bad but then picked the super happy face with no pain as his answer for the nurse. When they can’t answer for themselves we make sure to do our best to give as much information as we can for them.
- Calming Strategies
It is very likely that if you are in the ER, you are going to have to go through at least one bit of treatment that is unpleasant. Whether that is stitches, a blood draw, an IV, etc., it is probably going to be a situation that requires some sort of holding, swaddling, or possibly sedation. For our most recent trip with Drew where his tough part was the IV, we made sure to use every distraction at our disposal. In this case, we used that TV that I mentioned earlier. We made sure to turn on a movie he would really like and assisted in holding him and making sure he was looking only toward the video while she was placing the needle. The process took longer than I had hoped since they wanted a blood sample first and getting a large enough sample from my dehydrated guy took a bit of time. Once he was all set up on the IV, they had a very handy device that made it so he would have difficulty messing with the needle. Luckily, once they were all done placing it, he didn’t even try to touch it.
We do our best to avoid trips to the ER as much as we can, utilizing our primary pediatrician or urgent care when the situation allows. I would definitely be fine with never having to visit an ER again for any member of our family, but the reality is that I am sure this won’t be our last time. Using what we have learned from our past experiences has really helped make these visits much easier over the years. So, if you can’t avoid the visit to the emergency room, hopefully you can use some of these tips to help make your visit a little less stressful. We didn’t like having to take Drew to the ER, but we are thankful that they were able to help give him what he needed to get back to his old self. He is ready to start enjoying his summer break!