Smart ER: A New Parents Perspective

Dr. Angela Seabright
Mike Miller

| 3 min read

I’m a new Dad. Nine months ago our daughter showed up and life as my wife and I knew it changed immeasurably.
Doctor visits are both routine and frequent in baby’s early stages: check-ups, vaccinations, etc. These are all low stress endeavors.
Unfortunately, little ones have a tendency to get sick or hurt themselves, so there are times when doctor visits are unplanned and stressful.
In the span of a few months our daughter has gotten pinkeye, croup, and taken a tumble down a set of stairs. In each instance we were faced with making decisions quickly in regards to her medical care. Where do we go? Urgent care? The ER?
We awoke one Sunday to find her eyes caked in dried, yellow gunk. Fairly confident it was pinkeye, and with her pediatrician unavailable on Sunday, we made the decision to go to urgent care. This clearly wasn’t a time to use the ER.
Things became more serious on yet another Sunday. She’d had a bit of a cold, or so we thought. That day she started really struggling to breathe; her little chest caving in with each breath. It was scary realizing that she was in such distress.
In hindsight, we chose urgent care over the ER because we thought she had a cold. When we arrived, the doctor took one look at her and said we needed to go to the hospital. It was croup: an inflammation of the air passageway that often displays cold-like symptoms, but can be serious for little ones.
Because her breathing was compromised, monitored transport to the hospital was necessary in case she “stopped.” As in stopped breathing.
This time, fear and panic definitely set in for my wife and I. Will she be OK? Should we have gone to the ER? Why didn’t we go straight to the hospital? Did we make the right decision?
Yes, we did. The staff at the urgent care clinic gave her some initial treatments that stabilized her breathing, contacted the hospital’s children’s unit and arranged our transport. Even though she was taken to the hospital, it wasn’t to the ER. Had we gone to the ER, we may have actually wasted more time waiting while she struggled to breathe.
The tumble down the stairs happened this past week, when she was at her Aunt’s house for the day. The baby slipped away, got past a baby gate and tumbled down the basement stairs onto a concrete floor. To her Aunt’s surprise she seemed normal after just a few tears. Her Aunt called us immediately and we raced over from work to discover her happy, smiling, and playing.
This was confusing. What do we do now? What about internal injuries? Concussion? How do we know if she’s really OK?
This would have been an easy moment to panic and rush to an ER. Given the circumstances, we decided it was best to go to urgent care. If she’d had any serious cuts or lacerations, exhibited any signs of pain, or seemed out of sorts at all, we certainly would have gone to the ER.
Fortunately, we made the right choice and the doctor confirmed it: she was totally fine.
In each situation, we could’ve panicked and run straight to the ER. Being new parents, every little thing can seem monumental when it comes to your baby’s health and well being. Had we gone to the ER, we would’ve gotten the attention she needed, but it wouldn’t have been the best avenue. I’m glad we thought things through.
Avoidable usage of emergency rooms saves money and perhaps more importantly, precious time and resources. Taking a moment to assess a situation and decide on the best action to take can mean better care for both you, your family and others in need too.
Photo credit: dmason

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