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May 28, 2020
It’s Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, and my child got hurt and needed emergency care...during a pandemic. Sounds scary, right? So many questions and thoughts ran through my mind. Is it safe to go to the ER right now? Is the waiting room going to be busy and full of people who might be really sick? I had to take one step at a time.
Here's how my morning started:
My eight-year-old child was laying on the couch watching cartoons when our oversized golden doodle puppy jumped onto the couch, her paw landed directly on my child's right eye. We immediately rinsed her eye with saline followed by eyewash and decided to watch it for a while. She wasn’t bleeding, didn’t have significant pain, and it didn’t seem emergent enough to go immediately to the ER. But, she was having a tough time keeping the eye open without it watering.
I decided to call the parent line for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital General Pediatric Clinic (501-364-1202) where I spoke with a nurse on call. After walking through symptoms, the nurse recommended we put a patch or gauze over the eye. Then she said what I didn’t want to hear – go to the Emergency Department for a potential cornea abrasion - a scratched eye.
I am one to avoid Emergency Departments as much as possible and ONLY for true emergencies. In this case, our option to delay care would be for a full two days before we could get into a clinic, and we didn’t want to risk infection that could damage her vision.
It can feel scary to walk into the unknown of emergency departments right now. Yet, for the sake of my daughter's health and eyesight, we headed to the Emergency Department at Arkansas Children's in Little Rock.
Once at the ED, we were quickly screened and immediately met by someone to take us to a triage room to take vital signs and get an overview of symptoms. We then were taken to a patient room within the ED. The total process from arrival to room took about 15 min.
The screening process was quick and easy. Upon arrival, we were met outside the door by a nurse who took our temperature, asked as a few questions about where we’ve been, if we’ve traveled anywhere out of state and if we’ve had any symptoms of COVID-19, or been around anyone who had. It took maybe three minutes, then we spoke with another employee at a computer.
Since my child was already in the system, it was a matter of verifying our names, her date of birth, address, and providing a contact number while on the Arkansas Children’s campus. Both my child and I received a wrist band verifying that we’d been through the screening process and were asked to wear masks, which we already had on from home since we wear them everywhere we go now.
All Arkansas Children’s team members were wearing masks and asked that we wear masks as well. All facilities appeared and smelled clean. We moved through the process quickly, but efficiently. There also weren’t many others in the waiting rooms since guests that were not with the patient were being asked to wait outside due to a strict visitor policy. Since my husband stayed home with our other child, I was the only person with my child. Once in a room, admissions called to talk through insurance verification and online paperwork, limiting contact with additional people. We came in direct contact with only those who we absolutely needed to as part of our medical care, which I appreciated.
Compared to visits at adult care facilities I’ve had, the visit to Arkansas Children's ED was very efficient. We didn’t wait for a long period of time for any of our care. I also felt more comfortable taking my child there and felt our risk of getting COVID-19, a cold, or any other infection was lower than going to another ED where we’d be mixed in with adult patients. We were in and out in about an hour and a half, about the same amount of time a standard clinic visit would take with our primary care physician.
A few things I’d recommend: If you have a mobile device, bring it. It will be a key way to communicate with both the hospital team for the admissions process and to keep in touch with a spouse or grandparent that is waiting outside. If you have cloth masks, bring them. Don’t delay care for your child because of fear of the ED. It’s clean. It’s safe. And, it’s the best place for your child if you wind up in a similar situation.
Oh, and what was our end diagnosis? She indeed had a scratched eye. Eye drops and sunglasses for the win! Also, a strict no puppy on the couch policy.
For more information about Arkansas Children's visitor policy and safety guidelines, visit archildrens.org/coronavirus