Advocating for Kids in the Hospital
This week, my friend had a not so great experience at the ER with her disabled daughter. Even though my friend is a hospital employee and knows how things work there, she had to go “Mama Bear” before the staff would listen to her about what her daughter needed.
It reminded me of the many times my kids ended up in the ER (and then were admitted) for asthma. When they were first diagnosed, I didn’t know much about asthma and just trusted whatever the hospital staff did.
Then I educated myself and learned from each ER visit and hospitalization. Here are a few tips to build asthma education and advocacy.
Triage in the ER
In the ER, whoever is sickest is seen first (known as triage). Conditions such as heart attack, stroke, massive bleeding, breathing problems, etc. get to go first. I learned my child who is struggling to breathe doesn’t have to wait behind someone who needs stitches or a cast. My child can stop breathing and die! (My son almost did die twice from asthma.)
So, when I run into the ER carrying my listless child, I interrupt the triage nurse – even if she is with another patient. I quickly tell her my child has severe asthma, has been hospitalized several times before, has pneumonia again, has already had breathing treatments, has been taking oral steroid, and is still going downhill.
One time when that happened, the triage nurse took one look at my son, scooped him out of my arms and literally threw him in a wheelchair as she yelled for the doctor and respiratory therapist (RT). I am sorry the other patient was there before us and was probably relieved to finally get help after waiting for a while. But, there you have it. I can’t be polite and wait for my turn if my child is struggling to breathe.
Ask questions and ask for help
On another ER trip, they had sent my son for chest x-rays, so we followed my son’s gurney to the X-ray lab. We were waiting behind college students who were injured in shopping cart races (they were laughing and joking, so they seemed okay). I noticed my son was very pale and had dark lips. I knew that meant his oxygen level was low. My husband ran down the hall to find help and found the RT, who quickly checked my son’s oxygen level.
He reached under the gurney to turn on my son’s oxygen. On the way to the x-ray lab, I had already told the RT that my son had asthma and pneumonia and had been admitted several times over the years. So I asked the RT why he left us in the hall without oxygen? Especially when I told him my son’s history of severe asthma and hospital stays? I also asked him to stay with us and monitor my son until his x-rays were done.
Just then, the x-ray tech came out into the hall to call back one of the college kids. I asked the x-ray tech if he could take my son first, and quickly explained my son’s asthma, pneumonia, previous hospitalizations, and tendency to go downhill quickly. He looked at the college students joking and quickly took my son back for x-rays.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help!
Advocating for your child
Later, my daughter was in the hospital with – you guessed it – asthma and pneumonia. A young-looking RT came into my daughter’s room to give her a breathing treatment. Suddenly, the heart monitor started alarming. I asked the RT what medicine he was using in her nebulizer? The RT replied that it was albuterol. I asked him to show me the package. I saw that he gave my very young daughter the ADULT dose of albuterol. When I was checking my daughter, the RT just disappeared. You can bet I pressed the call light for the nurse and reported what happened!
After that, I would grill everyone who came into my kid’s hospital room. What is that medicine? How often do they need it? How much are you giving them? Is that the right dose for their age?
The hospital staff are VERY hard-working employees who are often worn out and doing the best they can, but they are human and can make mistakes.
So it is our job to advocate for our children. Speak up! Ask questions! Don’t be afraid!
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