Thursday, November 20, 2008

ABCs of ER on VaCay

So, we went on this vacation ... and all I remember clearly now are the two hours on the phone with bureaucrats/advice nurses, followed by five hours in the ER.

It started oh so well. So well. James was happy and excited to be someplace new with all of his family. He loves it when we all sleep in one room. The sun was shining and the weather warm. He ate muffins! He had lots of new words.

Then there was a cough. Just a little thing. Then he couldn't settle down for a nap. So I took him for a swim with his sister for about half an hour. It was over 80 degrees in the early afternoon. I whisked both kids out and scrubbed them dry as quickly as I could, then we all went down for a nap. James woke up sick. Fever, hoarse voice, weird cough. Then he tossed his cookies. He seemed to feel better & slept some more. He kept down some water throughout the night and his fever went down a bit.

But by next afternoon, 24 hours later, he was back to tossing cookies, fever, and that weird cough. And listless. Time to call. Here's where it gets tricky.

We have an HMO. With services divided into regions. Bet some of you are already knowing where this is going. Call home region to explain situation and get a new medical number & phone number for region where we currently are. Triage a bit over the phone. This all after 10 minutes of button-pushing, listening to taped messages that have nothing to do with my current situation, and patiently jumping through hoops with a call center agent to reach said advice nurse.

So fine and dandy. I got the new medical number in pretty good time. I always think that if the elevator music hasn't looped on me by the time I hang up. I call the number for the advice nurse in the region where we are now. Oops. Advice nurse gave me the wrong number. I don't even know what it was really to, because I did not want to pay $9.99 so my cell phone could find out.

Called again to our home region to get real number for our current region. Good-bye, another 15 minutes. Meanwhile. James is moaning and hacking on my lap. The bathroom floor hath lost its charm. Thank goodness the tub is *right here* because he's not giving me much warning before doing the old heave ho.

Call the number and pick my way through the new phone tree/taped (irrelevant for me) messages/canned music/bureaucratic phone center agents. Reach new advice nurse. He listens and then tells me he can't treat my son over the phone (my eyes are rolling up and getting a fine view of bathroom ceiling at this point). He then tells me to call 911 for an ambulance.

Wait. What did you just say?

All I wanted was an urgent care appointment (if available) or a recommendation for where to take him. So, there are no urgent care appointments. Okay, So that means the ER. Which med center is closest to us? Please bear in mind that wildfires have been springing up and raging out of control all day here. The air quality sucks and besides the fact that my son's breathing is not normal, going into a fire zone is just plain stupid, not to mention really dangerous. He says if I am not going to call 911 that I should go to the nearest med center. Okay, brainiac, I am not from around here. Where would that be? He gives me a location. I say thanks and hang up. I plug in the address of our hotel and the med center in Yahoo Maps. Goddess, how I love the internet in times like this. Daughter is awake and whining.

Yahoo tells me that the med center is right in the fire zone. Oh, and the two freeways I need to take to get there are completely shut down. Thank you, TV and voices on the phone. So I phone back, madder than spit. I am told by a different advice nurse to call 911. I explain this will freak out my son and make him even sicker. The first med center is in a fire zone. Where is the next closest med center? The nurse explains I need to take my son to the nearest medical center's ER. Yes, which one??? Daughter whining. James throwing up. Me gritting teeth. The nearest med center. He needs immediate care. STAT.

Why the freak didn't AN#1 (in this region) just *say* so? And AN#2: Can you tell me where that would be? This is starting to feel like a sick version of The Dating Game.

No. (That would be telling, #6)

Surprise. Not.

However, AN#2 really was trying to be helpful. She reminded me my hotel had concierge service and could help me. Which they did, bless their hearts. Christine, I will remember you with gratitude forever.

And I have to be honest, UC Irvine was probably the best place to take James. Not only were we completely triaged within 10 minutes of walking in the door (which has never happened with me before), James received excellent care during his entire 5-hour stay.

Final findings: dehydration (over 600 units saline solution via IV drip), croup (my first experience with it can you tell?), and pneumonia (for the bonus points). He had steroids, a 1-hour cool mist treatment, anti-nausea meds, and the first dose of antibiotics. My poor buddy. Thank goodness I brought his blankie and enough brain power to recite his favourite bedtime stories. By the time the monkeys were doing their stuff in "Caps for Sale," James was alert enough to thump his feet along with the story. I was never so happy to see a foot thump.

James is fine now and this is his second day back in school. Wish I could say the same!

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