With four kids, three of them being boys, it’s a miracle we never had to take them to the ER before. Until this past January, that is! It’s bad enough when you have to take your child to an ER, but because we didn’t know a few things in advance, we’re still dealing with some headaches with that ER. To help you avoid the nightmare we’ve been dealing with all these months later, here are 7 Things to Know BEFORE an ER Visit. Trust me – we learned the hard way!
A little of what happened: Our little Hulk was acting fine all day long, but around 6:30pm said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. Anyone that knows him knows that was a big red flag. We took his temperature and it was about 99.5 – okay, give him ibuprofen and let him go to bed. Around 9:30pm he suddenly starts screaming in pain at the top of his lungs! We hurry into his room, and he’s grabbing his stomach and just screaming. His fever is super high, so I race him to the nearest ER we could find on the GPS. Luckily it ended up being pnemonia and by the time we left the ER (the SECOND ER we had to go to that night – I’ll explain all that in a minute) it was about 5am and he was feeling just fine, smiling and hardly any fever with the meds.
#1: What’s the nearest ER that HELPS CHILDREN?
I’d never given much thought to taking my kids to the ER before – we never had to, and I just assumed all ERs were fine. When Hulk got that sick, I just searched our GPS for the nearest ER and that’s where we went. Big mistake! We found out – after we’d been there for several hours and they’d already ran a bunch of tests on him – that they don’t really help children so he had to be taken to a children’s hospital. Wait – WHAT?! They’d just spent hours testing my child, giving him X-rays and medicine and an IV, just to tell me ‘we think he has pneumonia, but we don’t treat children so he needs to go to this other hospital that treats children to make sure’. Turns out this other hospital was only 5 more minutes driving from our house than this one, so if I’d done my research BEFORE we needed to make an ER visit, I would’ve known to take him there in the first place.
#2: Are the ER facilities clean, safe and suitable for children?
This kind of goes along with the first one – but even if they say they treat children, make sure the facilities are SUITABLE for children. The X-ray machine and protective gear was all adult-sized, so I know he wasn’t fully protected and it’s no shock they didn’t get appropriate X-rays the first time. They didn’t know the best way to do an IV in a little 4-year-olds arm, and had to search for quite awhile to even find the right size. The room was blank, boring, and suited for adults – and there were no TV channels that even I was okay watching, much less a child, so he just lay there miserable and in pain with nothing to help him be comfortable except his blankie and Optimus Prime stuffed animal we brought from home.
#3: What are your rights – can you say ‘no’?
Again, I was in a panic and in completely unfamiliar territory when we rushed to the ER. All I could think about was my sick baby, which made my already exhausted (no sleep until we got home about 5ish in the morning) mind unclear. The doctor barely spoke English, and what he did had such a strong accent that I couldn’t really understand. I asked the nurses for help, but they just shrugged and said they couldn’t really understand him either. WHAT?!?! I should’ve made it clear that I wanted a Dr. that could be understood. When he said he wanted X-rays on Hulk (they still didn’t tell me they didn’t really treat kids so he’d have to be transferred later anyway), I said I didn’t feel comfortable with that – after asking him to repeat several times because I couldn’t understand him. He said something like ‘well we’re taking X-rays’ and didn’t give me a choice. I should’ve resisted – especially when they brought in adult X-ray stuff and adult-sized protective gear. I should’ve checked what my rights were – and made sure they knew I meant it when I said no X-rays, because he didn’t seem to think they were too important (and they certainly weren’t in a hurry for anything) when he mentioned X-rays in the first place.
#4: What is the average wait time?
If I’d looked into this hospital earlier, before we rushed their in a panic, I would’ve learned that they weren’t very quick. They weren’t slow because they were careful – they were just slow. After experiencing their care, I now believe it’s because they just don’t really care to hurry. The longer we’re there, the more tests they can do, the more they can charge. It took forever just to check in (even though there wasn’t anybody else there – I asked), then to just get info and vitals, then of the 4ish hours we were at this hospital, only maybe 1 full hours was with active testing/healing going on. The rest was us waiting there wondering. Luckily Hulk was able to sleep a little while more medicine kicked in and brought his fever down – because between being sick but not getting it fixed, mixed with the NOTHING comfortable/entertaining to do, it was awful. I’d ask a nurse for an update, she’d say she was busy – then go back to chatting with her other nurse friend.
#5: What are their policies on transfers?
After all those hours and the X-rays, the Dr. told us he ‘thinks’ he has pneumonia – but remember, they don’t really treat children so we had to go to this other hospital for a final diagnosis. So WHY did they expose my son to X-rays and other medicines (they never were clear on what they were giving him, either) when they knew he’d have to be transferred regardless. I asked the nurses (because I couldn’t understand the Dr.) and they said they have to transfer all children. They could’ve done that at the beginning – but then they wouldn’t have been able to charge as much money. Yup, at this point I was FURIOUS! They told me they were getting an ambulance to transfer us, because Hulk had an IV in so I couldn’t drive him myself, even though his fever was currently pretty low. I said I couldn’t pay for an ambulance, which they then told me they covered the ambulance cost because of an arrangement with the other hospital. When the bill from this hospital of OVER $30,000 came, I’m pretty sure they put the ambulance fee in there!
#6: What do other people say about the ERs near you?
I should’ve read reviews ahead of time – as soon as we moved into this new home – so I could know which hospital ER to take my family to if something ever happened. If I had, I would’ve read that this hospital I first went to was awful – they were slow, they were rude and didn’t care, wasted time, did unnecessary tests and medicines – then charge ridiculous amounts that are much higher than the average costs. Like LOTS higher! That’s bad enough, but the unnecessary tests (like the X-rays they gave Hulk, even though they weren’t as safe because they were made for adults – and he had to redo them at the children’s hospital anyway) really pisses me off! (this pic of Hulk is at the children’s hospital – watching cartoons and comfortable, with nurses keeping us updated and checking that everything was ok)
#7: Which ER accepts your insurance? Are they honest with their costs/bills?
Again, research would’ve saved us here. Turns out this hospital doesn’t accept hardly any insurances – they provide ‘discounts’ with some that they have deals with. But when I checked in and gave them my insurance, all they said was ‘this is fine’ – even when I asked if they took it, they said it was fine. Panicked mom brain holding my crying, overheating child didn’t think to get a straight answer. Turns out they have a discount deal with OUR insurance – so they billed our insurance company about $16,000. OUCH! So our insurance company told us our remaining deductible that we owe the hospital was about $3,000 – and insurance paid the rest. It’s now August, several months later, and we’re still fighting with the hospital because they’re trying to charge us $20,000 – that’s even more than they billed insurance! They’re trying to charge us the TOTAL NON-DISCOUNTED BILL, less what insurance paid!!! Yup, still fighting with this dishonest hospital.
If I’d done my research, I would’ve KNOWN this wasn’t the place to take my child to! We wouldn’t have had unnecessary (and I believe unsafe the way they did it) tests, awful experience, transfers, and a RIDICULOUS BILL! We would’ve gone to the children’s hospital, which was wonderful, quick (even though they were busy), truly cared, and they only did X-rays because they really had to with properly-sized protective stuff for Hulk. We were only in that hospital for about 2 hours. It was like night and day between the hospitals! In the end, I’m just super relieved and grateful Hulk is fine, but the fact that he may have been exposed to more X-ray than needed, had awful care, and that we’re still fighting with the hospital over bills is insane.