A Parent's Emergency Room Decision

. January 2, 2016.

A warm Friday night held the promise of our usual family fun night activities until a single incident turned those expectations into a decision about visiting the emergency room and a test of our parental instincts.

We had finished dinner and the kids ran outside to play on our swing set, waiting for our evening activities to start. We usually watch a movie, picked by the kids, eat popcorn and just spend some time together.    

As Heidi and I discussed our day we heard a scream. We ignored it as a normal scream, not worthy of parental attention. Then the scream turned to a different pitch and, like a tornado siren that yells out late at night, it grabbed our complete and immediate attention. I rushed out to the back yard.

To go, or not to go

Our daughter, Elizabeth, was screaming while holding her jaw as she lay just below one of the swings.  We took her inside and for thirty minutes the protests of pain persisted. It raised my concern but I thought we should hold off on a visit to the emergency room. Usually my wife agrees with this approach but because Elizabeth was so vociferously complaining she thought medical attention was warranted.

I called my friend, the EMT,  but there was no answer. That left us to our own devices. We continued to ask our daughter about the fall, but heard nothing unusual.       

A little more waiting and we decided it was best to go to the ER. Although it calmed our nerves somewhat it only increased Elizabeth’s anxiety – concerning her that medical care might cause
more pain.

We had our own concerns too. Were we overreacting? How much will our co-pay be? What if it’s broken and we don’t go to the hospital? I have to admit that this decision is easier for us since we have health insurance, but still filled with doubt. That’s not to say that doubt doesn’t fill almost every decision as a parent,  just reasonable conclusions that are supported by instinct.

Cost of peace of mind

Two and half hours later we were out of the ER and headed back home for a much later movie night. Her diagnosis was “Whopperjaw.” In other words, mom and dad could have kept her home and the result would have been no different.

A few weeks later, an outrageous bill came from the hospital. Shortly after that came a report from the insurance company that they would not pay until I filled out a form explaining how the injury occurred, who was involved, where it happened, and whether the police were involved. My answer: “She fell off of a swing in our back yard.” The next report we received was that the insurance company was paying a much reduced amount to the hospital and we had a $150 co-pay.

In the end that was the out of pocket expense for peace of mind. It’s a lot of money for any budget. But for the peace of mind that it brought us as parents and Elizabeth I guess it was
worth it.

Once again, no right or wrong answer,  just a reliance on instinct.