If you’ve ever wondered when the absolute best time to visit an emergency room is, I can tell you. It is at one thirty in the morning, on a Tuesday, in January, during a blizzard.
One of our twins had a high fever, had been wailing, coughing, and refusing to sleep. When she did doze off, she would breathe rapidly and loudly, alarming her father and I. We called the health hotline and they advised us to go in to the hospital.
My husband stood to go start the car, getting dressed warmly. I held our daughter, shushing her as I quietly sneaked into the twins’ room, seeking clothing to bundle her up in, meanwhile trying to keep our other daughter asleep. As I buckled up the car seat, the guilt of not taking her myself became too much. What if she needed to nurse? I volunteered to go.
We arrived to find excellent parking outside, and not a soul in the waiting area. The floor had been recently mopped, and the chairs straightened, save for one that was slightly askew with a tell-tale slush puddle beneath it. The triage nurse was patient and kind, smiling and cooing.
Of course, though she was still quite warm to the touch, the acetaminophen she’d been given a while earlier had begun working. Not a single rattle could be heard in her chest. She was smiling and laughing, and seemingly fine. I could tell that this calm and sweet baby wasn’t the normal rambunctious smash-and-crash ten-month-old she normally is, but to a stranger she seemed just fine. The whole experience was similar to your car making a weird noise, but refusing to do so while at the mechanic’s.
I will mostly remember the experience as the night I learned to take a temperature using a method I’ve only read about, and dreaded attempting. As it turns out, a thermometer in the derriere is not a big deal. My daughter laughed through it thinking it was some sort of new game. On one hand, I was relieved she did in fact have a high fever, because I didn’t want to be the frazzled, over-reactive mother. On the other hand, of course I felt worry about what was to come. Would we be at the ER all night? Is it serious? When does the projectile vomiting start?
It turned out we were sent home without medication, to wait and see. A virus had taken hold but the symptoms, too new to diagnose. I also felt a little “too new”, but in my case, to parenting itself.
The doctor didn’t even get out of his chair to speak to us. At first I found this to be an odd bedside manner, but later I realized this is a good sign. I should be much more concerned about a doctor who is showing signs of stress and worry, who acts quickly, whisking the child off for testing. The casual doctor who barely stands to speak to you, and sends you home easily, is the doctor you should be wishing for every time.
Before you ask; of course our other twin came down with the same illness a couple of days later. I’ve been assured many times by doctors and twin parents that trying to avoid this is a waste of time. The upside is, that by the time our second twin showed signs of having a high fever, we knew what the signs were, what was coming next, and what to do. It was a small silver lining, in what had been a lesson-filled week.