There have been so many moments as a parent that I have felt completely unprepared for – moments of overwhelming joy, heart wrenching fear, immense pride, intense love, and even complete panic. The last no more than a recent incident that saw us on our way to the local hospital’s emergency department for the first time.
It was early on a weekday morning and I was home alone with the girls, making breakfast in the kitchen. The girls were both in the playroom which runs off our kitchen. I had turned my back to the sink for a moment when I heard that sort of cry out that every mother know means that this is no ordinary fall. (I later learned) Immy had slipped on a play scarf, her chin and one arm absorbing most of the impact as she fell. What I saw in that exact moment was both of my girls on the floor beside each other screaming and there was blood. I didn’t know whose the blood was or where the injured child was hurt.
It took me a few seconds to determine that it was Immy who was bleeding from the chin (remember this whole time both girls are screaming and it is not letting up, in fact the following all happened in minutes though it felt more like hours). I grabbed a clean tea towel and pressed it to her chin. By now I was holding AJ, who would not let up from crying though I could not see any visible injury to her. I was also sort of nestling my body around Immy to comfort her, and I managed to calm her enough to tell me that she hadn’t landed on AJ when she fell. Even though she was not hurt, AJ (who was about six months old) was obviously so frightened that she was clearly distress and did not want to be put down.
Fortunately my phone was within easy reach but who to call? Although Immy obviously required urgent medical attention I did not feel that the situation warranted an ambulance. Dad 101 works 50 minutes away and my closest family member was about 40 minutes away. Needing someone close by who could at least hold and comfort AJ while I assessed and attended to Immy’s injuries before seeking medical attention, I called my neighbour’s mobile phone first – a stay at home mum who I thought would most likely be home getting her three older children ready for school – but unfortunately she did not answer. I didn’t have the number of the neighbour on the other side (a retiree) but I was pretty sure Dad 101 did so I rang him next. I was on the verge of tears myself by this stage, both girls were still crying in distress and he received a garbled message when he answered, something to the effect of, “I can’t talk now, I need help right away. Can you please call (our neighbour) and ask her to come. The front door is unlocked, tell her to come straight in.” Then I hung up. Yep. that is about all I said and then I hung up! The poor man had no idea what was going on. I also quickly rang my Mum to get her on the way to help, though I knew that being at least 40 minutes away she wouldn’t be able to provide the assistance I needed right away.
Then I noticed that Immy’s arm was at the strangest angle and she was favouring it. Despite years of first aid training as a teacher, that pretty much sent me from somewhat controlled anxiety into complete panic mode.
When Dad 101 rang me back a few moments later to tell me that he hadn’t managed to talk to our other neighbour but had left a message, I thought to try a friend who lives about five minutes away. She has children as well but I thought it likely that her husband would still be home. She immediately agreed to come and help care for AJ so I could get Immy to the hospital.
As it would happen both of my neighbours arrived at the same time, and my friend two minutes later. I threw on some clothes and bundled Immy into the car to head for the hospital.
Six stitches and a probable partial dislocation of the elbow later and I was never so grateful for the help of friends and family. However the lesson learned for me from all of this was the importance of being prepared for that which you hope will never happen. In light of my experience, my suggestions would be to;
Have a plan. Up until the time I actually needed it, I hadn’t thought in detail about what I would do in an emergency involving myself or my family. When you make your plan, think of contingencies too so if the first person you call for help can’t assist you have some back up available.
Know your neighbours. I now have both mobile and home numbers for the neighbours on either side of us. If you are not in the situation to call on your neighbours for help, be sure to have the contact numbers of friends or family closest to your home easily available.
Make sure your first aid kit is stocked. A tea towel, no matter how clean, is no match for sterile gauze to help apply pressure to a bleeding wound. I have repacked my first aid kit with five new packets of sterile gauze. I have also purchased a back up ice pack for the freezer.
Ambulance rides are expensive (at least in Australia). Look into the availability of ambulance cover in your area as it is better to feel that you can use the service when you need it without having to be overly worried about the expense.
As a teacher I completed and updated the senior first aid course many times but haven’t kept it up to date since I have been away from the classroom. This is something I need to rectify as first aid response and management techniques do change over time. If you are a parent, I think a first aid course is invaluable. In Australia look into the availability of a Caring for Kids first aid course in your area, it is generally cheaper, shorter and the course contents are more specific to child related emergencies.
Teach your children when and how to call for help. It is possible to teach young children who to call in response to an emergency. As well as teaching Immy to call ooo for emergency services (Australia), I have also shown her how to call Dad 101 on my mobile, with his number saved as a favourite. She calls him regularly from my phone so that she is confident to do so should I ever be unable to make the call myself.
To be honest, I am not sure that you can ever be completely prepared for a medical emergency involving your own child but having a better sense of preparedness may just help you to switch into auto-drive should you ever have to deal with such a situation. I hope you never do.
Who would you call on for help in a medical emergency?
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