Last Monday night, we found ourselves quite unexpectedly in the big county ER after my daughter accidentally swallowed a small piece of glass while helping clean up after a stained glass art project that produced quite a bit of obliterated shards. Well, she almost swallowed it. It lodged itself somewhere in her esophageal lining and was niggling around in her throat the rest of the day until she decided she should tell me about it as we settled onto the couch to relax that evening.Off we went to seek help to remove the offending foreign object, and the rest of this story is about the fun we had observing the oddities of human behavior.
The children’s ER is primarily full of parents with kids whom they should have taken to the doctor that day, but for whatever reason, did not. It is also worth noting that the vast majority could have waited until the following morning as it is rare to actually have a cold virus emergency, but alas, I guess my nursing triage is wasted here. An eight hour wait surrounded by every other variety of snot, sniffle and stomach virus must have looked far more appealing. After all, there is the Disney channel playing Tangled at 1 a.m., and a frazzled volunteer making regular rounds to pass out crayons and photocopies of Nemo coloring pages to the surprisingly energetic patients.
We took one look into the waiting area and scouted for seats somewhat isolated from the general population. This was not to be. As any child who has grown up with an RN for a mother can tell you, germs are very high on the list of anxiety provoking situations. We helped ourselves to the hand sanitizer station (we did have to touch a door handle to enter!) and decided to stand in the area just outside Germfest 2016. Eventually, a small sofa opened up in this commons area and we quickly claimed it for the evening, losing it only for a brief period while we went for throat and chest x-rays.We had the best seats in the house for the circus that ensued.
A strange man approached us and handed me a very tiny baby to hold for him while he left to use the restroom. What??? While she was adorable and one of the best parts of the evening, I was very uneasy and briefly wondered if he would return. (I am not afraid to admit that I was also very concerned about what source of contagion she presented.) Later, a young woman came around the corner loudly asking if anyone had seen an “old lady with a baby” come through. She was frustrated that the child’s grandmother had walked away with her, and she loudly repeated the question as people silently watched her, mildly interested in a distraction besides the never-ending rendition of “I’ve Got a Dream.”
A portly father announced to us that the two year old in the stroller clutching an iPad was addicted to YouTube. “He watches it all day if we let him,” he nodded as if he was telling us the child could play Mozart on the piano. I guess our somewhat baffled reaction wasn’t what he had hoped for, and we bore witness to the apparent withdrawal about twenty minutes later when Dad decided to remove it from the child’s grip. An epic meltdown followed.
The cute little kindergartner beside us had “thrown up an hour ago, but now she seemed fine,” her mother announced. Off Mom went to the vending machine, and soon returned with a rice crispy treat for the girl who was now hanging on the arm of my daughter’s seat. I wondered how long it would be before we saw it again. Finally, mercifully, the nurse yelled our name above the cacophony and we hurried to the sanctuary of an almost clean exam room. The pediatric ER doctor came in to say that he was sure it was quite irritating to have glass in one’s throat, but we would need to see an ENT later in the week to possibly have it removed by scope, and to use some lozenges in the meantime to numb it. Silly me, I thought they could do that at the hospital. I guess we should have waited until the morning.