Friday, February 6, 2015

First ER Visit

Yesterday went from bad to worse, ultimately ending in the emergency room. In 28 years, Jesse and I have managed to avoid the ER. We've taken our four kids to Urgent Care or the Minute Clinic a handful of times over the past four years for pink eye or ear infections. The ER was not a "first" we ever expected.

The kids were playing upstairs, running between the trio's room and the other side of the house. I sat in the middle, using my body as a human gate to block off the staircase. Jackson ran to his room and the trio were climbing on top of me. James wobbled over my legs and ended up falling over me, topping down the stairs. It was one of those horrendous moments where time stood still. I couldn't catch him before he fell down the entire flight of stairs. The next thing I knew, James was curled up completely still at the bottom of the stairs, blood pouring from his head. It was an image I will never forget. 

Praise God he was screaming, so I knew he wasn't unconscious or worse. I went into complete panic mode, ran downstairs, grabbed James, and sprinted to my neighbor's house. I was screaming wildly the entire time and my neighbor immediately followed me to our house. He grabbed James to assess the injury while I got everyone else safely downstairs. I was still screaming, which upset Jackson greatly. (It literally took him over an hour to stop crying. Clearly, my dramatic reaction poorly impacted him.) Our neighbor tried to get me to take deep breaths, but all I could see was the blood on the floor, my shirt, and dripping down James' face. 

Throughout these few minutes, James had calmed down and was looking around completely alert. Within 10 minutes, the blood had stopped and James was eating a graham cracker and walking around. Jesse was in a meeting at the preschool five minutes away (part of the "bad" from our day that deserves a separate post). He didn't respond to my multiple calls and texts, which made me even more anxious. 

My neighbor assured me that James was okay, but would need stitches. I wanted to only take James to Urgent Care, but my neighbor was uncomfortable keeping the rest of the kids. (Bless him. He was in muddy socks because he ran right over without putting shoes on.) 

I didn't want to wait any longer. Just as I was unloading the kids into the van, Jesse finally called to say he'd be home in five minutes. The neighbor stayed with me. Jesse walked in the door and immediately took James. I was still quite shaken up so I was relieved Jesse took him. Jackson was still crying and screaming at the time. My mother-in-law called to request an update on the meeting at preschool, but I blurted out everything with James. Thankfully she headed straight to our house without even asking. 

Jesse took James to an Urgent Care and a Fast Med, though both places redirected him to the hospital because James would need a CT scan. I tried my best to calm Jackson down. He was crying in his room while doing a Batman puzzle. When I told him that I was sorry I had screamed so much and I explained how I was very scared, he stopped me and said, "The Bible says we can pray for sick people." So we stopped and prayed for James, which made me cry even more. 

I asked Jesse to comment about the ER waiting room experience. He said: 
The receptionist was kinder than I expected. Checking-in was a lot faster. James was fine, but antsy because we forgot his shoes. He was hungry, so we grabbed a pop-tart from the vending machine. We were surrounded by disgusting people.
By the time my MIL came over, I had cleaned the house and cooked dinner for everyone. I left soon after to meet the boys at the hospital while my MIL stayed to put the kids to bed. I grabbed quesadilla, milk, and shoes for James. When I got there James had just been called back to triage. 

The nurse took information and gave him his tiny ID anklet. After triage we were moved to an ER room. James was so happy to finally eat, drink, and walk around. Jesse was more interested in peeking through the window in hopes of finding a gunshot victim. I felt completely nauseous and on the verge of a debilitating panic attack.

The ER doctor came in, assessed the wound, and determined that he would need staples. (I don't know why he chose staples over stitches.) He also informed us that James would need a CT scan. Despite the risk of radiation exposure, he requested a CT because:
James is under two years of age. His fontanelle is not closed, meaning the skull bones have not completely covered the brain.
The injury did not occur in the frontal lobe. (I don't remember why this was important. Something about the forehead area being thicker?)
It was a significant fall. (A whole flight of stairs vs a few steps)

While waiting for the CT scan, a nurse placed some kind of numbing astringent on James head in preparation for the staples. James was compliant throughout. He was in a surprisingly good mood and enjoyed pulling the cords and playing with the overhead light.

Due to my queasiness with head wounds, we decided Jesse would comfort James during the staples and I would accompany him during the CT scan. That was a terrible decision on my behalf! The CT scan was one of the most traumatizing experiences James or I have ever experienced. The procedure was to:
Place James on the table, with his head in the cradle.
Tie his arms down with a sheet.
Secure his arms to his stomach with thick velcro straps.
Wedge washcloths between the cradle and the sides of his face to secure his head.
Wrap gauze around the machine and his head like a mummy, only leaving his eyes uncovered so he could not move his head.
Put on a lead vest, then lay on top of James.
Raise the table. Begin moving it in and out of the gantry (term for the doughnut shaped scanning machine).
Watch James turn blue from screaming as red lasers flash across his face and he cannot move.
Feel a mix of panic attack, motion sickness, and utter helplessness.

Once again, James calmed down much faster than I did. I held him for quite some time because I felt so guilty about him falling down the stairs and subjecting him to such frightening experiences. Jesse remained our rock.

After showing Jesse the following sign:

we agreed we should have brought a sleeping bag.

James had thrown up all over his blanket, and it was long past his bedtime.  Neither Jesse nor I had eaten dinner and we were all emotionally drained. We were beginning to think we would be there all night, when in walked the doctor. He casually said the images were good but James was filled with mucous. I had to stop him and clarify this meant he had no brain injury. He confirmed, then explained that the CT scan showed a sinus infection, and would inevitably lead to an ear infection. (Both of these infections could throw off his balance.) He wrote a prescription for antibiotics.

After two applications of the numbing agent, James didn't even flinch when the doctor put in the staple. It was so much faster and uneventful than I anticipated.

We have to go to our pediatrician's office next Thursday to have the staple removed. James cannot have a bath (or any immersion of water) until then.

From the moment I ran to my neighbor's house, my greatest fear was that social services or CPS would take my children away. The guilt was eating away at me. How could I have let my toddler fall down the stairs? As the doctor was leaving, I summoned up the courage to ask him if he would report the incident. He shook his head no, laughed, and explained that these things happen all the time. Knowing that James was healthy and wouldn't be taken away from me, it felt like I could breath for the first time in four hours.

I went home shortly afterwards so Jesse's mom could go home. The boys ended up waiting another thirty minutes on discharge papers and the prescription. When they finally came home, Jesse and I tried our best to clean the matted blood out of James' hair before changing him into pajamas.

I am relieved to report that James is acting 100% like himself. He slept, ate, drank, and played well. He doesn't seem the slightest bit phased by his injury. I had to pull him off furniture all day long.

I could not be more relieved and thankful that everything turned out okay. I wish I could say this would be our last ER visit, but every day is unpredictable with our curious kids.


  1. Poor little guy! I'm afraid I still get the shakes throughout the whole ER experience. Reading this made me try and recount how many times we've been in the last 13 years. Three times with Lila (twice for abscesses, once for bead up her nose); twice with Avery (broken clavicle and stitches in her foot); once for Taylor (concussion), once for Jude (dehydration). And I absolutely cannot count the number of times we went with Jake...but Livie and Lucy have escaped the ER thus far (knock on everything!).

  2. I think what a scary time that would be. Luckily it was only stitches. What we need to keep in mind is that kids will always get bumps, bruises, and cuts. It is just part of their growing up even though it may scare the heck out of us as parents.

    Loura Swader @ U.S. HealthWorks Gilroy