By: Wendy Rhein
I am writing this at 3am after a long day and evening. Today I made my 8th trip to the emergency room in the 18 months that we’ve lived in our new hometown.
My discount card says that after two more visits I get a free cup of coffee.
When I picked our apartment, I asked where the closest hospital was. When you are a single parent with two very small children, this is a good thing to know. When you are a single parent with two small kids AND you live with a semi-bionic aging parent with a whole host of medical issues, four joint replacements, and a fused cervical column, it is more than a good thing, it is vital.
We are lucky in that our local ER has a geriatric ER as well as a pediatric ER. It is as if they built it just for me and my fellow members of the sandwich generation. If only they would install a rolling martini bar between those two wings instead of those flat screens that show four different sports with no sound.
This particular ER visit was for Nate. The mealworms he feeds his leopard gecko named James Bond are in a dormant state until they reach the warmth of the reptile habitat. My ever-inquisitive son thought it imperative to know if said worms would come out of hibernation with a single blast of warm air, or did they need a slow thaw. He did not factor the impact of his big blow on the sawdust that surrounds the worms in their chilly Tupperware environment. Lesson learned and scratched cornea #2: do not blow into sawdust.
Earlier this summer he learned another lesson: wielding pizza crusts as light sabers under a blanket fort with your 18-month-old brother can result in injury. Scratched cornea #1.
And by the way, the worms were none too happy about being sent careening around the room willy-nilly in a blast of boy breath. Neither was I.
The visit to the ER before that was for my mother. She had a hip replacement this summer and was in a rehab center during the initial weeks of recovery. In the second week, there was some indications that she may have developed a blood clot. The nursing staff was not taking it as seriously as she or I thought was warranted. I would like to believe it had nothing to do with a shift change, or the fact that one of them would have had to accompany her to the hospital on a dark and rainy night. My answer: toss pajama’d children into the car, descend upon the nursing home and demand to speak to the night manager. When not satisfied, check Mom out of the home, carefully load her fragile body into the car and take her to the ER myself. Seven hours later, leave the ER with two very tired children who were absolute gems in the geriatric ER, and return a grateful and relieved mother sans blood clot. I think I put the fear of God in the nursing home that evening. Good.
Then there was the visit with a wailing 9-month-old Sam and his umbilical hernia. His belly was tight, he wouldn’t stop screaming, and I was sure he needed emergency surgery to free his trapped lower intestines. Turns out he only needed to poop. I do much better as a parent when they have language.
So far, Nate and my mother are tied for the most visits at 3 each. Sam is bringing up the rear with 2. At 6, 71, and almost 2, respectively, I see only increases in those totals in my future and that scares the daylights out of me. I still have broken bones from soccer games to contend with; slips and falls, and a whole host of other ailments to come. I keep everyone’s medication lists handy, just in case, and know which side streets to take to avoid the highway on-ramps during rush hour. I know which of the ER techs are friendly and which ones make Nate’s lower lip quiver. I know enough to try to use my calming voice with Sam and how to tell if Nate really needs to go or if he just needs to sit on the couch, watch a movie, and mentally check out for a while. I know that when my mother agrees to go after the first or second suggestion that we need to be in the car now. I know to bring snacks.
What I don’t know is when the next trip will be, for whom, or for what. But it’s coming.