Juggling Multiples In Urgent Care Situations

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Categories Childcare, Medical

I talk to my mom just about every day. Which is why I’m scratching my head as to why FIVE DAYS WENT BY before I knew that my 11 month old nephew had been taken to the emergency room for a last-ditch treatment for a case of seal-barking croup.

He ended up there late last Tuesday upon the recommendation of the pediatrician, after efforts to calm his coughing proved ineffective. A long evening, short-term admission, and heavy duty breathing treatments later, my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew headed home. Tired, but on the mend.

As I was discussing the blasphemy of such delayed information dissemination with my partner, the conversation moved quickly from vilifying grandma to asking one another: “What would we do if something like that happened with us?” And I’m talking single event situations, as opposed to longer-term illnesses, because that’s a whole different ball o wax.

As with most readers of this blog, unlike my brother, we have two or more child(ren) to address and waking/taking the doing-just-fine kiddle is not going to pay off. And if you do go as a family, you better have banked the mental cost of jacking with more than one child’s routine. And what we decided – as well as you can go on deciding without going through it -was the following:

For semi-planned urgent care, one stays and one goes. Such as with X and croup, one of us would stay with the better kid, while the other of us (probably me, since i used to work in the healthcare industry) would take the not-better kid to the hospital. We’d keep in touch via calls and text messages. But to us, it would be important to keep one parent and the other child(ren) with as much rest and as little routine disruption as possible.

For unplanned urgent care/emergencies, same thing. This would be something like big falls or a need for stitches or something of the sort. While it would be poopy for one of us not to be there, keeping things moving with the well kid is equally important.

For rapid-onset illness, one stays and one goes, but the one staying is making plans to go. That means the stayed-homer would shore up plans, clothing, materials, childcare, and phone calls to family, then joining the other and sick child as soon as possible.

For critical illness or injury, we’d probably both go immediately after calling upon godparents (we should probably inform them of this, no?) or friends to stay with the well child until the situation was stable.

We also have a good circle of neighborhood friends who could likely step up in a time of crisis, as well as godparents and a set of grandparents that live within 30 miles. Of course, under any of the above scenarios, it’s possible that we’d have no choice but to take the well kid, too. And we’d figure things out from there.

We are immeasurably blessed and grateful to have emerged this side of infancy without major incident [warning: we’re entering toddlerhood], but I also know these things can be inevitable at some point in time. Certainly, there isn’t a wrong way or a right way to handle a childcare situation when one of the children falls ill/injured. But to the extent that we can somewhat prepare, the smoother the chaos can be.

For those who have had an urgent/emergent care incident, how did you handle the other child(ren)? Did you have a loosely organized plan as to how to handle a situation like that? What would you differently?


Rachel is a mom who managed to survive the first year with twins, but hold the applause because the second year has only just begun. You can read more about their adventures on her blog.

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23 thoughts on “Juggling Multiples In Urgent Care Situations”

  1. We have handled our one trip to the ER for an x-ray, by me taking the injured one, and DH staying home with our other 2 kids.
    We take the “divide and conquer” approach. DH stayed home and put Twin B and other son to bed on time, I took injured one to ER and only called him when all was said and done and Twin A was thankfully just fine anyway. So when parent A is on duty with sick kid, parent B is handling other kid(s) and all other duties. As parents we have an unspoken understanding, that one of us will attend to the needs of the kid who is in ER, or sick, or hospitalized (if it ever came to that), while the other handles everything else. We have no family in the area to rely upon, but have good neighbors and friends who could step in during a real catastrophe. Only recently I obtained a list of reliable babysitters from my church, I gave a copy of the list to my husband and said- keep this list somewhere you can get your hands on it quickly if anything ever happens to me. Scared him a little but that is the extent of our planning. Of course, an entire other scenario is “WHAT IF” something happens to partner or spouse, that is worth planning for as well.

  2. Our b/g twins seem to attract illnesses, especially ones that land them in the ER and many nights in the Peds unit! It seems for ER trips and even hospital stays I’ve been the one to take them. My husband seems to get overwhelmed with all the information and is more comfortable being at home with the other kids. For our weekend stays due to asthma/RSV problems I am always the one to go and admit him and then he will have someone come watch the other kids while he comes up and visits a couple times a day. You’re right when it just works out better for the other kids to keep a normal schedule as much as possible.

  3. We had to deal with this quite recently when our daugther’s one night testing hospital stay ended up being almost a week. And my husband and I both work more than full time! There was tagging in and out and you need to keep careful notes when you are dealing with that many doctors. My “lessons” are up at my blog – http://www.mommyesq.com/2009/07/top-10-hospital-lessons.html
    We were never able to both be there except after Ned was in bed – that was more catch up time than dealing with doctors/medical issues.
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog .. =-.

  4. you are so right, Diane, we need to think about the “what if” if one of the parents/caregivers is out of pocket. We’ve handled it just fine when one of us is out of town for work purposes, but then again, those are PLANNED trips. We’ll be exploring the unplanned situation soon!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Open Wide =-.

  5. My daughter has landed in the ER twice now. Once was even with an ambulance ride. In both situations, we were “lucky” because not only were both parents home, but relatives were around as well. The first time around, I was still nursing my little guy, and only one of us was allowed to go to the hospital in the ambulance…so my husband went with my daughter while I got stuff situated to leave her twin with my sister (he was VERY upset) and to bring my little guy with me so I could nurse him if necessary.

    The second time, (3 months after the first – oy!) I actually had bottles around, so I left both boys with my parents – who just happened to be around – and both my husband and I went with my daughter to the hospital.

    I have absolutely NO idea what I’d do if I were alone in the house with all three kids and something happened. I suppose I should get a plan together for that situation … or if we don’t happen to have other relatives in the house!

    Great post! Good stuff.
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..VBS =-.

  6. We just recently had an ER trip with our son. He had a seizure after a few days of a virus (they think it was dehydration induced). I ended up going to the ER in the ambulance with our son and my husband stayed back with the two girls. One of our neighbors ended up coming over to watch the girls so hubby could come to the hospital too and my parents came up later that night to releave the neighbor and do bedtime routine with the girls. Worked out well, but totally wasn’t planned ahead of time. Next time we’ll know better (because with three little one’s there’s bound to be a next time some time).

  7. Very sadly, we have been to urgent care/ER four times with the kids. Each time, one of us has gone with the sick/hurt kid while the other partner stayed at home with the other kid. Cell phone reception has been terrible every time and the one with the kid is so busy keeping them entertained that the whole communication plan went out the window.

    The only time I really panicked was when Jon was on a business trip and Nate woke up crying with a 105 fever! First thing I did was call triage. Talked to triage about a plan, then called a friend to get them alerted I may need their help. Then I dealt with emergency. Only then did I call Jon to keep him posted that he may need to fly back.

    Despite any amount of planning, when you are truly faced with an emergency (two weeks ago, Alex gouged the back of his throat and uvula) you know the right thing to do. Care for the sick kid and everything else you will figure out.
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..The next step in bathing =-.

  8. We thankfully haven’t had a trip to the ER yet. I worry more about having an emergency when I am home alone than when my husband is home with me. Most of our day is spent with just me and the kids and if something were to go wrong it would most likely happen when I am out numbered. I have a baby-sitter chart up on my fridge that has emergency contacts, nap times, favorite foods, etc. If I were to have an emergency I could call over the closest neighbor and leave quickly for the hospital with the other child.

    On a side note, when we have a sick child at home, we take turns staying up all night, if that is what is needed to care for the sick child. Usually I take the first shift because I tend to be too worried to sleep anyways. When I decide that I am too worn out and need to sleep then hubby and I trade places and I let him take over care for the sick child. This way neither one of us is up all night long.
    .-= Rusted Sun´s last blog ..cowgirl and cow-twins =-.

  9. I’ve done both (split the parents between home with well child, ER with sick child) and carting all 4 of us together. Quite honestly, it’s worked better for us with all of us there together. My boys are still each others’ best friend/best comforter, and when they were apart, and knowing something was wrong, they were far more anxious. The past two times we’ve all gone together and the anxiety level has been far lower for all of us.

    The ER we go to is very kid-friendly, and while I HOPE I’m never in a situation where I’d need to go by myself, I know it’d work just fine.
    .-= WhatACard´s last blog ..That Kind of Day =-.

  10. I’ve never done the ER visit, but for urgent doctors’ visits during the day, I take both kids. For evening urgent care visits, one of us stays behind—often the other child is sleeping, since bedtime is 7pm.

    Our real emergency so far involved my own need to visit the ER and I was absolutely unable to drive myself—although my husband did leave me there for a while after it was clear that the pain was being managed since I was there for TWELVE HOURS. Freaking ER. Anyway, we were really lucky that my mom happened to be up that weekend, because 80% of the time I am alone with two two year olds. What we learned from that—you can’t plan for everything and we’ll figure out whatever comes up. How can you possibly plan for emergencies like that?

  11. My husband’s in the army. That translates to his being overseas 15 months every other year. The luxury of one parent per child sounds divine, but isn’t an option here.

    We had many emergency rooms visits the first two years. I quickly learned which ER in our area was the best, for accurate diagnoses, quick response, and comfort level with infants. An extra 20-minute drive results in us being seen two hours faster, or immediately if our pediatrician calls ahead. In addition, an off-duty nurse always seems to find her way to our room to help entertain the healthy/uninjured child.

    1. I always have an emergency bag in the car, in case we are stuck in a hospital or the side of a road for hours. Extra clothes, snacks, drinks, and until recently, diapers. (Now I have a teeny potty chair and plenty of plastic bags.) The emergency bag also contains the girls’ insurance cards.
    2. Always keep my cell phone charged. In a pinch I could call a neighbour (although I try to avoid exposing their kids to whatever mine have), or even beg my mother-in-law to fly across the country. If nothing else, a cell phone allows me to coordinate care and discuss options with our wonderful pediatrician.
    3. Bundle up both kids and make the best of it. I’m fortunate that my daughters are very empathic and stay on their best behaviour when Sister isn’t feeling well. As long as I tell them both what’s going and why, they’re good as gold.

    I had one horrible experience (before I discovered the great hospital) where the hospital refused to take a stool sample during our 6 hours in the ER, making me return home with both kids, collect a stool sample from wiggly 6-month-old while staving off the other’s hunger, and drive back to the hospital with both children in tow. Awful awful day.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Overheard 15 =-.

  12. I forgot to mention – I highly recommend choosing a pediatrician with some sort of after-hours service. For starters, my doctor has Saturday morning hours for illness (not for well baby checks). My pedi also uses a hospital call center with trained nurses who respond immediately and also page the on-call doctor. This means that we get immediate feedback from nurses, and hear from the doctors who know our kids within 30 minutes.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Overheard 15 =-.

  13. I have never needed to take the kids to the ER yet, but I do give a copy of their insurance cards to any family members if they are spending the night away from home, and I keep directions to the local Children’s hospital in my car. (Important if I am in a different part of the city and not at home when the accident or illness occurs.)

    At our local Children’s hospital, they have play rooms for non-sick kids/siblings, which is a great idea. Also, they have play room volunteers to help if only one parent is at the hospital at a time.

    I keep a first aid kit in my bathroom, and in my car, and I pray that my EMT training will kick in when/if it is needed.

    The thing I love at my pediatricians, is that I can call after hours and talk to a nurse at Children’s hospital, and she triages the situation. It has helped many a night at 2am. I will go to the hospital if we really need to, but sometimes the advice and reassurance from a trained nurse is just what I need!

  14. We’ve just played it by ear each time. One ER visit was for both twins, so I brought all three kids and made my husband meet us. Subsequent ER visits have been when one of us could stay home with the other children. This winter my oldest was acutely ill and my husband was working out of town, so I took all four children to each of her appointments and tried to stay current on my Cymbalta prescription.
    .-= Jen @ Diagnosis: Urine´s last blog ..i compose a hit song, but am otherwise unsuccessful today =-.

  15. I think Rebecca is right – we can’t plan for everything. But what I was made aware of in this incident with my nephew is that we weren’t prepared for ANYTHING. (no centralized location of phone numbers (beyond my cell, pedi #, and poison control) And that’s not a smart place to be either. Yay for lessons learned!

    I can also learn a lot from Sadia in having an emergency bag handy. Heck I do it for hurricanes, so why not.

    I’m learning tons from all your experiences! Thanks for chiming in! And if you’re reading this but haven’t commented, and have a story to tell, please do!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Open Wide =-.

  16. So far we’ve only had one ER visit, but it was pure chaos. I came home from work to find out Maddy’s “cough” seemed more serious than my MIL (who was watching my girls) thought. I took her to the Urgent Care run by the local Children’s Hospital, my MIL stayed with the other three until Hubby came home and then Hubby took over the other three. Turned out she had croup and we were in the ER for about 5 hours so she could go through the breathing treatments. Since that experience I’ve made it clear to Hubby and my MIL (who are really the only other adults to watch my girls on a regular basis) that in an emergency I want the girls, if at all possible, to be taken to the children’s urgent care where they’ll be with pediatric experts, as opposed to the closest “general” urgent care/ER.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..When Mama Ain’t Happy… =-.

  17. Thankfully we haven’t experienced a need (yet) for urgent care for our dynamic duo. However, after our family of four had an auto accident this May, we did experience the need for husband and I to visit our local ER. Fortunately our b/g twins survived the accident w/o a scratch or bruise on them. Gotta love those properly installed Britax car seats!

    Here’s how the unplanned situation worked for us: Both hubby and I needed medical care, someone needed to watch the kids/keep the schedule and someone else needed to deal with the totaled vehicle. After quickly evaluating the severity of our injuries (head wounds versus injured foot), we decided hubby (head wounds) would ride in the ambulance to the local ER while my mother (who lives next door to us) would take our twins home to keep the routine and I (injured foot) dealt with filing the police report and having totaled vehicle towed. By the time the vehicle was taken care of, hubby had been stapled/super glued back together and was ready to return home. My mom continued to watch and play with the kids while I retrieved hubby. Once back at home, we completed our usual bedtime routine (baths, story, nursing session, etc.) and once our two were nestled in their cribs, my mother took me to the ER for my injured foot while my father stayed with hubby and the twins.

    We had no emergency plan prior to our accident and to be quite honest, until this post, I really haven’t considered a plan for if/when we need that level of care for our twins. Thank you for the thought-provoking post with great ideas for formulating a plan “just in case”!
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Intro to a Pickens Institution =-.

  18. we’ve had these issues already. one of the boys had a skull fracture on christmas day, so both of us went and the ILs came over to watch the other two. and since then, we’ve had about 8 (literally) visits to the ER for asthma attacks, and since it’s almost always at night (and hard to get help), i take the boy, and the husband stays at home.
    .-= pam´s last blog ..You know you have triplets when… =-.

  19. Because my parents live about 10 minutes away (my dad can make it in 5 if there is a true emergency), our plan has always been to call them if needed. He would stay with the two well kids and my husband and I would go to the ER with the sick one. (This happened twice in the last year due to one of the twins’ fever issues – 105 degrees!)

    For urgent care visits, I take the child since my husband doesn’t have the best memory and will forget the important questions. 😉
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..The word of the day is… =-.

  20. For the most part our plans sound like yours. Unfortunately we’ve had to put it in play when an injured child needed to go to the ER (non-critical injury, T.G.). And while it sucks to be the parent at home waiting, it is important to keep the other kids home in their routine (and out of the way of the medical professionals, if I’m being honest)
    What is/was more frightening was when same child injured himself when only one parent was home with the four kids (I was not the parent, which was good for everyone!) My husband was packing up all four to run to the ER before he stopped, thought to clean up the blood and see “oh, that’s actually not that bad, just a lot of blood” and unloaded everyone. But I cannot imagine what he would have gone through if he had to take them all. The stress of the ER compounded with the care of the the non-injured children…I hope we never have to do it!
    .-= Cynthia´s last blog ..2-Year and 9-Month Check Ups =-.

  21. This is a good thing to think about and have a rough plan of how to handle it.

    When our girls were a month we were staying with our in-laws when one of them choked and stopped breathing. I was so glad we were there and not at home and thankfully my husband, who is trained and taught cpr classes was also there to work on her. She started to breath again, but we needed to head to the ER for her to get checked out — reflux vs. apnea [after much testing turned out to be reflux]. I stayed with her for 3 days while her sister stayed with my husband and in-laws. Thankfully they took bottles at that time and so her sister did just fine, but not being with your baby for three days can be really hard! My MIL would bring her to the hospital everyday for me to nurse her.

    I’m curious to know, though, if there was an emergency and the child had to be taken by ambulance and there was no time to find child care for the other child[ren]? I would hate to not go with the hurt/ill child. Is it possible to take the other child with you in the ambulance until your partner could meet you?

  22. Oh geez, the hospital can be so tricky with multiples. When my twins were in the NICU, one was discharged before the other, and it was kind of a nightmare. The NICU hospital was on a different island to the one we live on (had to be med-evaced to other island when pregnancy went haywire, long story), so we had no support system in place and had to find a place to stay, rent a car, and do awful shift changes constantly. I was nursing both girls when both were in the hospital. Splitting them up meant only half as much nursing for both. It was such a stressful time. I was so happy when were able to fly home and finally sleep (or not sleep!) under the same roof.
    .-= jungletwins´s last blog ..Mini Vacay IV : Paradise Lost…then Found. =-.

  23. We dealt with this when my kids were 7 weeks. I was home alone at the time. I was bathing DS when DD suddenly went sheet white and could barely breath. So I called 911. We live less than a 2 minute drive from the closest fire house, so I hadn’t even finished rinsing DS when they got there. They told me to go ahead and get DS ready and that they were sending someone in to ask me a few questions. Before he could even get past name and birthdate, the EMTs were pulling him back to immediately head out. So they told me to follow behind them. I don’t know if they would have let DS in the ambulance or not, but I think they might have since I was home alone (and they were both travelling in their car seats). I grabbed their diaper bag on the way out (my emergency kit? well, for them anyway…). I was both nursing and formula feeding, so I had some spare pre-mixed bottles in the bag (the GREATEST emergency rations I could have had on hand).

    On the way to the hospital, I called DH (who was in a client meeting so did not know I had called for another maybe 10-15 minutes) my in-laws, and my parents. Thankfully, my in-laws live only about 5 minutes from the only hospital in our immediate vicinity that happens to have a pediatric ER. She got to the hospital before DH and took DS so she could watch him, which allowed me to concentrate on DD – not that there was a blessed thing I could do for her, aside from pray. My parents arrived maybe an hour later so everyone took turns with DS while we went with the transfer of DD into the PICU.
    Truth is, to us, the hard part was not the plans for during the ER part of the visit, it was the remaining 8 days and shuttling back and forth between PICU and their crazy-restrictive hours, and DS who pretty much took up residence with either my ILs or some good friends, depending on the day.
    In terms of actual emergency plans, I think each emergency is likely to be SO different (age of kids, length of stay, etc.) that it makes it pretty hard to plan. The only plan we still have in place, is everyone’s numbers (family and friends, particularly some SAHMs with older kids who could get away at a moment’s notice) in our cell phones and their diaper bag with diapers, changes of clothes, snacks and toys always nearby.

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