Known Johnson

September 6, 2005

ER advice

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 11:15 am

If, after some nearly 6 hours of incessant baby-crying, you feel possessed to do what the doctor suggests and “just give us a call if you have any questions!” because you know someone’s on call during the night, resist. Because here’s what will happen: your question, say, of why your baby won’t eat and won’t stop crying, will prompt whoever it is that is the expert on-call on the other end of line to say “get your baby to a hospital, it’s not normal to cry that much!” And you’ll think, “Hmm, it’s not normal, but is it really this serious?” I even asked that – is it really necessary to take Amanda to the emergency room? I just wanted an answer of some type – “no, that’s not normal, why not make an appointment for a little earlier than your two-week one next week and we’ll see if she’s okay,” or “here’s how you get her to sleep: . . . ” And you’ll sit there, kind of stunned, stuck halfway between two conclusions that don’t seem particularly comfortable: that she’s really ill, or that everyone is overreacting. When you decide to take the baby to the ER a half hour later when she erupts in a particularly violent spasm of crying, think of a few things before running out the door:

  1. Is she breathing?
  2. Has she been eating?
  3. Is she fine most of the time?
  4. Does she look basically okay?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” take your shoes off and rest, and thank me for saving whatever exorbitant bill the ER charges, because that’s essentially all it came down to when we followed the nurse-on-call’s advice and went at 3:30 am. I’ve also saved you some frustration and embarassment at the hands of the ER staff who, with an amused smirk, help the “first time baby parents, because heh heh we don’t see these issues with second- and third-time parents (but it’s a slow night and I’m a really wonderfully kind- and big-hearted doctor so I’ll humor you and check over your perfectly normal baby.)” I’ve saved you from two hours of being treated like, until last week, you’ve never never as much as looked at any information about babies or, in fact, have never even heard of the concept of “baby.”

I’ve also saved you two hours of sitting at the ER, half of which is spent with two nurses who repeatedly tell you how to swaddle your infant and that “she’s just got her time flipped around! Ha ha!” I’ve also saved you from the sheepish smiling and nodding that you’ll have to endure when they ask you the above questions, and you have to answer that yes, she’s fine most of the time . . . but acts up now every night like this. It doesn’t matter – as long as she basically appears healthy, she is healthy. But it’s every night, and each night is for longer, and louder, and we’re not getting any sleep! No, don’t worry, she’s fine, they’ll say, this is just normal infant behavior, unfortunately. Tell that to the beat-red baby who couldn’t be consoled, fed, or pretty much anything at 3:30, 2:30, 1:30, 12, 11, 10, and 9:30. Because I’m not convinced and I’m certain that Alissa’s not convinced that it was really necessary to send us to the hospital to be humiliated. I can do that on my own, and it’s free.

So, if you and your infant are ever faced with a trip to the ER, just ask yourself one question: does my baby appear to be on the verge of death? If the answer is “no,” skip the ER trip, and give your pediatrician a call in the morning.


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