When I Take My Kids To The ER, It’s Because They Are Absolutely Fine

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When to visit the doctorI am bad at doctor. More specifically, I am bad at pediatrician. I had no idea before I had kids how very difficult it would be to know when my kids need to see a doctor and when they are 100% healthy. You’d think there would be a pretty clear difference between “time to go to the ER” and “time for another popsicle.” But my experience has shown that not to be the case.

When my twins were babies, there were a few times when I took one or the other of them to the emergency room for what I thought was a fever that was going to boil their brain but instead turned out to be absolutely fucking nothing. They would have a 105-degree temp at home, but we’d walk into the ER and it would be a fiery 96. Or there’s the time my son cut his finger on a metal watering can and I swore I could see the bone. Cut to the ER a couple of hours later, where I am walking out with some Neosporin, a band-aid, and a bill for $300.

I am not a crazy person. I don’t have Munchausen by Proxy. None of the docs at Children’s are ridiculously hot. But I have made some big mistakes in the past where I haven’t taken them in and something has been wrong, so now I am jittery and always second-guessing myself.

When my son was two, he broke his arm. My husband and I didn’t figure that out for six or seven hours. He was playing on my in-laws elliptical machine, and I told him to get down. He decided to use their stability ball to do that, and fell onto their stack of hand weights. (My in-laws are in super good shape.) Well, he got all pale and screamy, but he could still move his arm, so I said, “He’s fine. If his arm was broken he wouldn’t be able to move it.” Because I am an expert, right? Six hours later we were home eating dinner, and my poor little dude was sitting at the table crying with one arm sitting in his lap. That was when I took him to the ER, where they discovered he had broken his arm.

Nice. Super sorry about that day of agony, son.

Then there was the time when my daughter insisted her ears hurt, but because she had cried about that particular wolf in the past I said, “Nonsense” and sent her to preschool. It wasn’t long after that the school called and asked me to pick her up because she was pale and lethargic and clearly not feeling well, asshole (that last part was inferred by me). I took her to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with a double ear infection and a double eye infection.

You can see why I get filled with panic every time I need to decide whether or not to call the doctor. I’ve started trying to psych myself out by saying, “Okay. My kid says her throat burns and she can’t swallow. My first reaction is that this is just a regular sore throat, and she will be fine in a day or so. Therefore, I should take her to the doctor immediately because it is probably strep.” Or, “My child’s leg is bent at an unnatural angle. My first instinct is to take him to the emergency room because his leg is broken. Therefore, I should keep him home and praise him for his flexibility.”

I think this is going to work out just great.