It’s a funny thing, but when you walk into the ER of your local hospital with a 10-year old who just happens to be pumping blood from the top of his head, you get Seen. Right. Away. No waiting, just “health card please, someone is coming right out to check him.” And within seconds, someone seriously was right there. The nurse quickly had a look at the gash, put some gauze on it, added an ice pack and some more gauze and said “ok, hold this and the triage nurse will call your name soon.” I had just enough time to go outside and call John to let him know what was going on. When I came back in the triage nurse popped her head out and said, “I need to see Charles.” So we went in, she assessed him, took his vitals and asked us to wait in the waiting room, it wouldn’t be long. And it wasn’t. After about 25 minutes (practically instantaneous in ER waiting rooms, no?) They called us in, and put us in a room. 5 minutes later another nurse was cleaning his head, and things just went like clockwork from there. X-ray, more head cleaning, more assessing of vital signs and finally freezing and stitches and staples, and we were sent on our way with instructions, extra gauze and a funky staple remover to be used by our doctor later in the week.
So, the grand total? Approximately 5 and a half hours spent at the hospital, but almost every second with something going on. My conclusion? That this is, for real, what emergency departments are for. When it’s a true, full-on emergency – heart attack, stab wound, head trauma, respiratory failure? You are number one priority. When you arrive with a cough that you’ve had for 6 days, a kind of sort of pain in your foot, but you can still walk no problem? You kind of sort of have to…yeah, wait.
Ontario hospitals are frequently given a bad rap for wait times. Working in the system as I do now, I know that reducing wait times for anything and everything is number one priority across the province. Using the ER as a walk-in clinic does nothing to help with wait times, we all know that. At the same time, I also know that there are likely many people with no other option but to go to the ER with their ailments. So, with injuries or conditions that aren’t life-threatening, wait times seem to be very l o n g indeed. And I feel for people. I’ve been there with the 8-month old who is running a ridiculous fever that will not go down no matter how much Tempra or Tylenol or Glenfiddich you give him. And I’ve been there with the scary asthma attack that somehow manages to calm down as soon as you arrive at the ER leaving you going “unh, 2 seconds ago he was blue and gasping for air, I swear.” And at those times I waited my turn, so I know. And it can seem like you wait for days. But I also know that triage works to sort people dependent on how sick or injured they are. And they are good at their job, they know their shit. So, you might have seen me yesterday with my son, and yeah, we “got in” before you, and you probably thought I was too preoccupied to see the rolled eyes or the daggers you shot at us, because you were there first. I saw it all, people, and really? I’m sorry you have to wait longer…but come on. The boy totally needed to be fixed – and fast.
I’m also keenly aware, as I get to nearly the end of this post, that part of my focus on giving props to the hospital and everyone that helped us out and to the healthcare system for actually working well, like it’s supposed to, is that I just do not want to think about what exactly went down yesterday afternoon, and how scared I actually was. La la la, he’s fine, it all worked out, he’s going to be great, la la la. When x-rays are taken of your kid’s neck, even though you know it’s precautionary, that’s huge. When the doctor, while looking into the gash says to the med student with him “see there? Yeah, that’s his skull – we really need to be sure it’s not cracked.” That’s fucking enormous. So focusing on the details, sending kudos to the nice child life specialist who brought us juice and a stress ball for Charles to squeeze? So much easier than coming to terms with the fact that my baby spent several hours lying on a stretcher bleeding from the head after being thrown from a sled and landing on some rocks head first. Yeah, let’s talk about the little things to make the big things go away.
But it did work out, and he’s home and fixed up and feeling pretty good. It was bad, but it could have been so much worse. And I am so, so grateful that the worst case scenarios – that I am famous for creating, I’ll have you know – playing over and over in my mind, are just there. In my mind. He’s going to be fine. But his tobogganing career? So over.