3 under 3

Let’s get ambulance cover

Posted on: November 26, 2012

I am writing this at 2:54am. I am sitting curled up on a hard plastic chair, with a sheet over me for warmth and my feet wedged uncomfortably into a metal safety bar to keep me upright. I’m tired.

Molly is at last peacefully asleep in an emergency bed at the hospital. She has croup, which suddenly got worse a few hours ago and she was struggling to breathe. This happens several times a year, and usually we are able to manage it at home with steroids, steam, and close observation until she calms down.

However, lately Molly has been refusing to take her steroid medication because of the taste, and the distress it causes trying to force it into her often makes her breathing situation worse.

Usually, after sitting in steam in the bathroom for ten minutes and trying to relax, Molly feels better and is able to go back to bed (in our bed, so we can listen to her breathing during the night and make sure it doesn’t worsen). Sometimes we have to repeat the steam routine once or twice throughout the night, but she is generally ok.

However, tonight was a bit different and when she didn’t settle after we tried all of our usual tricks, I got a bit worried and called the hospital. They put me through to the on-call nurse, and then she put me through to the ambulance.

From there it got a bit messy. Because we didn’t really want an ambulance. We’ve done the ambulance thing once before with Molly, the first time she had croup at eleven months if age. It was scary and we didn’t know what else to do. So we called, they came, they helped us and took us to the hospital. And then we got a $700 bill.

Obviously, $700 is worth it to save our child’s life, and in a truly life-threatening situation I would not think twice about it. But in a fairly urgent but non life-threatening situation? It’s probably best to save the ambulance for someone who needs it more and keep the $700 for, oh I don’t know, bills and food and stuff. Molly needed to get to the hospital but I could have driven her myself, she wasn’t in immediate danger. The ambulance officers did tell us that at the time, but being pretty scared and flustered by the night’s events, the better option seemed to be the open ambulance door and the safe, all-equipment-on-hand-if-necessary comfort it provided.

So you can see why we weren’t keen for a repeat tonight. Trying to learn our lessons the hard way here, people!

I hesitated as the nurse was putting me through to the ambulance and asked her whether it was better to just hang up and take her to the hospital myself. She advised me that based on Molly’s symptoms it was better for an ambulance to come to us. So I agreed, still thinking that we would just get their opinion and then take her to the hospital ourselves if necessary.

For the next fifteen minutes we were on the line with the ambulance officer, who talked to us while the ambulance made its way to us, and asked regularly how Molly was going. She wasn’t improving much and I was a little concerned at how sleepy she seemed and how hard she was finding it to talk and breathe. She actually seemed to be getting a little worse.

But then, right as the ambulance arrived, she perked up just slightly. The ambulance officer’s assessment was that if Molly was still refusing to take her medicine, then she’d best go to hospital.

Again we hesitated. I asked if she was okay enough for me to take her and the ambulance guy said probably, but if anything happened in the way there wouldn’t be anyone to help. That scared me and I started to think the ambulance was looking more attractive after all.

Tom and I looked at each other and made up our minds. $700 for the peace of mind that if Molly became distressed again, I wouldn’t end up on the side if the road trying to call another ambulance for her. The ambulance officer was quite sympathetic of our dilemma – he’d obviously come across it a few times before.

So, we bundled Molly into the ambulance, and Molly proceeded to entertain the ambulance guy with many, many stories about our personal lives. They were all told in a rather breathy, raspy way but at least she was well enough to tell them. I spent the entire trip feeling very proud of my funny, articulate girl and her ability to make friends in the back of an ambulance, and also feeling slightly annoyed that once again we had fallen for the ‘quick, get her to hospital’ trick.
Because some situations are emergencies, and others are, just not quite emergencies. But to poor old, emotionally-drained and sleep-deprived parents, it can be pretty damn hard to tell the difference.

Here at the hospital, Molly was seen fairly quickly by nurses and doctors. She has been given a dose of a slightly different medicine, which, according to Molly was “Not so bad.”
Two hours later, her breathing has settled, her cough is gone and she is snoring happily on the bed. We can go home in a couple more hours if everything continues to be fine. I am very much relieved, very grateful for the assistance and treatment we have received here, and very much looking forward to climbing into my bed.

So what’s the moral to this story?

Just pay the damn $100 for ambulance cover every year – we’d still be $900 ahead if we’d done this after the first incident… oh well.


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