Riding in an ambulance isn't something you WANT to do, but we had our first experience last night. Carson has had a cold for few days and started to have some difficulty breathing (something that has happened only twice in the last 3 years). Of course, I didn't have a current prescription for albuterol, so after cousin Paige's party, we headed to our pediatrician office. The convenience care office is open until 10pm. They have never actually diagnosed him with asthma because the episodes are so infrequent. The two prior episodes have involved a trip to the doctor's office, a breathing treatment, and home to bed. Not last night though.
Here's what went WRONG:
- A non-pediatrician was working that night.
- In fact, a non-MD was overseeing him (a physician's assistant).
- The PA was measuring his pulse-oxygen level on a machine meant for adult fingers.
- His pulse oxygen level was bouncing around from 88 (dangerous) and 96 (healthy) in a matter of seconds. Didn't seem like the thing was working.
- After two breathing treatments, the PA did not wait for his pulse oxygen level to stabilize, which takes almost an hour in kids.
- The PA suspected pneumonia because he doesn't have a history of asthma (doesn't two prior episodes count as a history?)
- Because his oxygen level wasn't high enough immediately after treatment the PA would not let me drive my child to the ER.
- 2 fire trucks and 1 ambulance show up to pick Carson up and take him to the children's hospital in Tacoma.
- We will need to pay for an ambulance ride when the paramedics didn't do one thing on the ambulance.
- By the time he got hooked up to a real monitor, his pulse oxygen level was 96 (which is good...it stabilized in that hour!)
- We needed to fill two prescriptions at 2 in the morning.
- We picked up Addy at 2:30 in the morning. (Thank you to our awesome friends, Jeff & Kim!)
- We went to bed at 3:00 in the morning.
Things that were GOOD!
- Carson is a fireman for Halloween, so how cool is that to have 6 of them show up to take care of you?
- He had his costume with him because we had it at the birthday party...so he got to wear it in the ambulance.
- He now has a great paramedic friends. He talked their ears off in the ambulance. They want him to visit at the station next week.
- You get to see out the back window and lay in a 'bed' while you are riding in an ambulance.
- He LOVED getting the chest x-rays....totally grinning ear to ear as they took them. And seeing your bones....so cool!
- No pneumonia.
- Children's hospitals have books, toys, movies, and awesome nurses and doctors (who actually questioned the PA's call to send him to the hospital in the first place!).
- Although feeling not-so-good at the party, he completely perked up after the first treatments...back to his normal talkative self, loving all the attention.
- Our pediatrician is awesome.
- When numbers are bouncing around on a pulse-oxygen reading...you go with the HIGHEST number (because kids' circulatory system in their fingers can be very volatile).
- It takes an HOUR for kids to fully get the effects of breathing treatments.
- A child's pulse oxygen-level is just ONE item to take into consideration before sending a kid to the ER (speaking in full sentences, being alert, talkative, and acting 'normally' are others).
- I need to INSIST I see either a pediatrician, or if not available, phone the on-call pediatrician BEFORE a decision is made to go to the ER.
- We can treat a future, similar instance on our own with the prescriptions our pediatrician gave us.
- It is likely he will grow out of this by age 7 (hoping!)
It was a long night. Without a degree in medicine you really are at the mercy of who is working the shift the night your child gets sick. I know it is better to err on the safe side, but overly aggressive treatment can make the situation scary and frustrating. Live and learn, I guess. I will be more prepared the next time. You have to be willing to say NO sometimes, even to doctors (and PA's!). After all, a mother knows some things about her children that a doctor never will.