Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Emergency Room

Last night, Francine and I were planning on ordering a pizza and enjoying a couple of beers after putting Alexander to bed. Still recovering from the big surprise birthday party I’d had for Fran on Sunday, we were both looking forward to a nice quiet evening.

In the midst of preparing for his bath time, Alexander was running in the kitchen when he tripped and his head came down directly on the corner edge of the bottom of Mister Bunny’s cage.

I saw the whole thing happen in slow motion, and even though I was several feet away, as his head rocked back from the impact, I saw the large indent in his forehead less than half an inch above and centered between his eyes. In that moment, the indent looked to me like a thumb impression that had been pressed into a ball of silly putty.

So, after a five hour wait at the ER, and two stitches later, we were finally able to bring him home and get him settled for bed. Sans bath, of course.

I think the thing that I found most disturbing was when we were waiting in the ER (we’d been there for over an hour and still hadn’t even gotten Alexander through triage -- that little miracle took almost two hours -- it was another hour at least before he was actually assessed, and from there, half an hour before a doctor actually looked at him, and another hour before he actually got his stitches), he rubbed his eyes and ended up opening the wound again.

Head wounds are very generous when it comes to dispensing blood. So there were are sitting in the ER waiting room, trying desperately to stop a steady flow of blood that, at the time, seemed to be coming in waves like the bleeding walls from The Amityville Horror, calm an overtired, crying baby (ironically, he seemed more upset that we were holding him, because he wanted to run around than over the deep gash on his forehead), and we might as well have been alone in our own kitchen for all the help we received.

I know I’m an over-reacting parent, but you’d think that a baby with a non-stop bleeding head wound would generate at least a bit of priority over the constipated lady beside us, the guy with the hang-nail who was moaning and begging for Demerol, or the guy across from us with a cough that wasn't half as nasty as the one I’ve had for several days now.

I’d like to blame the health-care system for this. Sure, we have pretty decent health-care here in Canada. But part of me wonders at whether or not the abuse by the common person of that free health-care might not be a large contributing factor to making it worse. I mean, remove every single person who was there presenting something that could be treated by the average GP or walk-in clinic, or maybe even a call to the Tele-Health Ontario 1-800 number and I think the total wait might only have been half an hour or maybe even an hour tops.

It makes me think that if a person actually had to pay for the service, would they be there at all? I’ve always been an avid supporter of free and non-tiered health care. But last night the concept of some basic level of user-fees (which would have kept plenty of people clear of the ER last night) wasn’t all that bad an idea. The trick, of course, would be applying the user-fees to any cases in which one of several other of our free health-care options for non-emergency services would have been satisfactory.

But the difficult part is judging what’s a non-emergency and what constitutes satisfactory. I’m an over-reacting parent. I’ll admit it. If there was a guy sitting there with a severed arm in his lap, if I could have gotten away with it I’m sure I would have beat him over the head with his appendage for the opportunity of taking his number from him so Alexander could get into triage before him.


Anonymous said...

Good Mornin' Mark:

I hear ya about waiting in ER, I had the same experience when Nicholas tripped and hit his head off the corner of the coffee table. The huge goose egg appeared very quickly and I almost lost it. It was also in slow motion, you forget that they are still toddlers that are really wobbly at times.

So I feel your pain, as a fellow parent especially when it feels that the medical staff are being unsympathetic. But at least you know those little guys are very durable and we the parents are the fragile ones.


lime said...

Oh ouch!! I can see the whole ugly incident replaying in slow motion. Poor little guy! Hope he heals up quickly.

I don't know what to say about the health system. The American one isn't any better. Three kids ages 10,12,and 15 so plenty of ER trips under my belt here. I can also think back to when I had a genuine emergency (not life threatening but certainly beyond the realm of making an appointment with a GP) and really crappy health insurance. Somehow I fell down pretty far on the triage list that time around.

Franny said...

I know all about the all-nighters in the emergency dept. When Joey was a newborn we waited over 8 hours to be seen by a doctor, during which time he lost consciousness due to dehydration (he was throwing up everything we put down in him). We were only seen when I stormed up to a nurse and announced that we were leaving because I could watch my child die at home instead of waiting there.
I used to think such things only happened in 3rd world countries.

As for the abuse of the system, you are right on that one. Gushing wounds are emergency worthy. Coughing is not.

I know Alexander will bounce back. But you'll FEEL it everytime you see his little bump.

Lara said...

When my youngest was 10 days old, my oldest slammed the middle's pinky finger in the back edge of a door, removing the nail & a lot of skin and who knows what else. So hubby and I called grandma to take care of the other 2 and we ran him to the hospital for finger x-rays, etc. Several hours later, we're still waiting (LATE at night) with a very tired 2 year old with a smashed finger... and I'm exploding (don't they have ANY clue how much milk a mother makes who has a 10 day old infant?) It took so long that grandma had to give her formula, and I was in agony for hours before she finally woke up to eat again.

Moral of the story is... emergency rooms are horrid no matter where you're at. Paying for it doesn't make it go any faster... even if no one is waiting.

Kimberly said...

I hope Alex gets better soon...course by the sounds of it, he was bouncing back during the wait in the ER.

I find stories like these related here shocking. God help anyone who has a serious injury these days.