Jackson has been out of the hospital for less than two months since his initial admission from birth. And in that time, we’ve been to the emergency room five times. Five. Times. Unfortunately, it’s not a ‘buy five, get the sixth one free’ type of situation, either. Too bad, because I think someone has earned themselves a free night.
One of those times we traveled by ambulance, meaning we were taken directly into a room without having to pass through the waiting room. But, the other four times, we arrived as most do – through the doors of an open emergency room into a crowd of other parents and children waiting to be seen. And every time, we were quickly shuffled into a private triage room, past children who had been waiting, past parents who had been worrying, and past the proverbial line of signs and symptoms that we should have been in.
We were deemed more important. And I’m not sorry for that.
I saw the looks – the angry glances parents sent our way as we came rushing in and were immediately taken care of. I saw the frustration on their faces as we approached the desk and were told the staff knew we were coming and we didn’t have to wait.
We were more critical. And I’m not sorry for that.
I saw the confusion when we said that Jackson’s fever had hit 99.1 at home. ‘99.1? My son’s is over 100’, I could hear them think. ‘How is this child being seen before mine? Why is he even here?’
We were more important and our situation was more dangerous.
What you can’t see when we rush into the ER, bags and nurses and meds in tow, is that beneath the cover of the car seat sits a little boy with a complex history. A little one with a trach that leaves him open to catching illness and a central line that is just an infection waiting to happen. There’s an 8 month old who can go from seemingly healthy and happy to critical in the blink of an eye. A child that, by standards of medical care, is more important than yours.
A few weeks after we were discharged from the hospital, we sat in the GI’s office. ‘An infection in this line can kill Jackson. And fast,’ she told us. And we listened. We listened to the warnings and the what-to-dos when it happened. And we followed them, to the tee.
And, thank god we did.
Because, on one of those fateful trips, what you didn’t hear was that his fever had gone from his normal 97 to 99 in less than 15 minutes. You didn’t see that his breathing had gotten fast and shallow. And you didn’t know that an infection had set in, hard, causing the area around his line to swell, redden, and become painful to the touch.
We became critical. And we became important.
Important isn’t good. Being the one rushed back to a room in the ER doesn’t mean you’re special or you’ve won. It means the stakes are high. It means the risks are high. And it means the chances of not coming home are high.
We used to joke in the CVICU that the good days were the ones where you rarely saw doctors or nurses in your room. It was the days you were paired with other kiddos when it came to nursing assignments. It was the quiet days, the slow days, the days you felt unimportant.
So, yes, my child was not important than yours. And, I’m not sorry for that. Instead, I’m happy for you. I’m glad you can wait, and I hope you never have to know what it’s like for your child to be important.