They don't cover parental emergencies in Infant CPR class.
January 17, 2013 6:19 PM   Subscribe

What would happen to my son if 911 were called for me?

I'm a stay at home mother with a condition that, while it hasn't happened yet, could ostensibly become an emergency at some point. It occurred to me that I have no idea what would happen to my two year old son if I needed to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. Obviously, if his father could be reached, he would take care of him - but he's often out of reach for hours at a time.

It also occurred to me that household accidents must happen to parents all the time, what happens with the young children in these situations if another family member can't be reached? Would they be taken to the hospital as well? Who would watch them?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For the ones who come in to the emergency department, the nurses love to play with them until a family member or friend arrives. Bigger hospitals have social workers or even Child Life specialists (with a closetful of toys at their disposal) who can help with the kids if needed.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:28 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I imagine treehorn+bunny is correct. However, it might be a good conversation to have with your doctor. Awhile back I remember a thing going around about putting an ICE contact in your phone. ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency" and you could put a couple different ones in there so that people could be called. Are you expecting to be completely incapacitated? Would you have a trusted neighbor who could accompany you and the child until your husband or other family member could get to you?
posted by amanda at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, I should add that the preferred option is for the child not to come to the emergency department if that can be avoided, because it's not a fun or safe place for kids and the solutions above are very temporary ones.

If the caregiver is not incapacitated then I believe that EMS tries to get them to call a friend or a neighbor to watch the kid for the time being. The situation of having a very young child and a parent who is actually incapacitated to the point that they cannot try to get help with childcare doesn't happen very often because, well... which one of them would have called 911?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:09 PM on January 17, 2013

This is something to reach out to your friends about -- I'm the emergency contact after parents for one of my friend's kids because she doesn't have family nearby. You may have a friend or neighbor who you could check in with about whether they'd be willing to take that on.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:32 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

From an EMS perspective, yes, attempts are made to find alternative care for children supervised by the patient. If that's not available, almost all ambulances carry child seats and will transport the child/ren with the parent. However, this can get tricky if there are a bunch of kids because there usually aren't more than one or maybe two seats available. If there's truly no one around, and the kids can't be transported, law enforcement will call social services to take temporary custody.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:33 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Talk with your doctor about whether this is proper to do, but my first thought is to get a medic alert bracelet/necklace for yourself with instructions and/or contact information for someone who you designate to care for your son in the event of an emergency situation. This might also involve some sort of legal document to authorize the person to temporarily supervise your child.

Hopefully this doesn't happen, but it is good that you are thinking about this now.
posted by 1367 at 7:33 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I asked exactly this question! (Which I see Orinda has linked to.)

When I had an emergency with one of my children (not me) while I was by myself with two kids, the EMTs offered me various options for the second: they could call the police to come and take custody of him until I or another adult could retrieve him, we could all three go to the ER and the social workers and nurses there could help until a second adult arrived or the emergency was over, or I could make alternate arrangements for the second while the EMTs took the first to the hospital (which is what I ended up doing as the emergency had been resolved on scene).

The EMTs were great with the kids, and every random adult nearby was ready to help out with the non-involved child and kept him in my sightline but distracted from the chaos while the chaos was ongoing. The whole situation was scary but gave me a lot of confidence in how very, very well emergency services are organized and run. They were calm, reassuring, knew exactly how to handle both the emergency itself and the logistics surrounding it, and were just really great.

Also, from experience, if an ambulance stops on your street with its lights on -- even in the middle of the night, even without sirens -- neighbors come outside to see what's going on. SOMEONE is always awake to see the lights. This is how, several years ago now, I ended up babysitting my neighbor's 2-year-old for 8 hours overnight and into the morning when the husband had a heart attack and the wife went with him to the hospital. Seven or eight people had been drawn outside by the ambulance lights even though it was around midnight; of those people, I knew the family the best so I basically went and dozed on their couch overnight. I've seen this occur several times, where everyone drifts outside to see what's going on and if they can incidentally help, and a neighbor ends up watching the kids. There was a housefire down the street from me when several children were at the house in question, and the gathered neighbors (we were all gawking like crazy) were bringing out coats for the evacuated kids and bottled water and cookies and even lawn chairs so the kids could sit down; once the fire was out and everyone was accounted for, the ones who lived in the house went home with a neighbor to watch Disney movies and be spoiled until their parents finished the immediate after-fire stuff. People help out in emergencies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:12 PM on January 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

EMT here. While do not know specifically what would happen with your child, SO much depends on where you are - which we can't guess at due to your anonymity. I do know that in my area we would not transport your child or other minor family members to the hospital. The PD would handle that and based on my experience, they would not be take to the hospital.

If this is a legit concern, I think you local EMS/PD/FIRE would not mind a phone call or visit regarding this.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:26 PM on January 17, 2013

EMR here (first responder, not EMT). When we show up on scene in my district, one of our jobs can be to stay with kids until friends/other parents/relatives arrive if for some reason the child can't ride to the ER. We can't stay forever, of course, but we can help a child call a trusted adult and wait with them until that caregiver arrives. (During this period we also usually give them a blanket and a teddy bear. Sometimes we do that for really sick adults too-- it helps!)

But yes, it depends entirely on your district and how old your child is and what kind of emergency you might have. I would definitely call your local EMS director or liaison and ask them. They will really, really appreciate that you took the time to think of this. They may also spread the word about your condition (I hear things like, "We have a frequent flyer [someone who has needed help more than once] diabetic in Arctic Circle, there are kids in the house, so if you get sent on that call, their dad and grandma's numbers are taped to the fridge," all the time.) EMS crews gossip like washerwomen among themselves, and so if you can do something that makes it easy for them like put emergency numbers next to the phone, etc., and then let them know, word will get out.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:17 PM on January 17, 2013

More anecdata, sorry, but at n=1:

I'm in Massachusetts. When my son was 3 I collapsed at a restaurant with him while my wife was in a remote area of a different continent. I of course had no plan in place. 2 waitresses kept an eye on him until the EMTs showed up, the EMTs took him into the ambulance with me, he got to go on a fast ride with flashing lights and sit in a kid-sized jump seat, and the nurses kept him company at the hospital until a friend could get there. Obviously the path would have been different, probably involving the hospital social worker, had I been unconscious at the ER but I was thankful and genuinely moved to see the whole it-takes-a-village cliche come roaring into action.

Certainly worth asking your local hospital/PD/FD about if it's freaking you out, I sort of wish I had as anxiety about his situation definitely complicated that night, but it was quite reassuring to find out in the moment that everyone had us covered.
posted by range at 9:22 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

What Eyebrows describes is consistent with my memory of being a small child with a toddler sibling who had to be rushed to the ER. I went along and was given paper and crayons and possibly snacks and doted on by spare nurses, and I have no traumatic memories about it at all.
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 PM on January 17, 2013

I think it's a good idea to have a laminated emergency card on your fridge and a smaller version in your wallet. It's basically what you would do for a babysitter: In an emergency, here are our nominated caretakers in order: parent 1 cell, parent 2 cell, friend, friend, aunt. You list that stuff along with your own physician's contact details and your child's peds practice, and any known allergies for all household members. What goes on the fridge can obviously be more extensive but it gives emergency responders a place to start when you may not be able to have input.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:51 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

As previous posters have mentioned, you don't need to worry about your child if emergency services arrive/ your child is taken to the hospital with you. The people in these professions are as a rule caring and thoughtful and they will be able to manage the situation.

You don't mention the nature of your condition, but if an emergency occurs and you're able to request help yourself, you might be able to call in a friend/family as well. If your condition is such that you won't be able to call for help yourself, you need to teach your child what to do if you won't wake up, call 911/112.

My nightmare as a parent is that I'd fall ill/ have an accident in a public spot with my child and bystanders/emergency services not realizing that I had a child with me. We have name tags on all our kid's clothes with our telephone numbers as a security precaution.
posted by abx1-se at 12:54 AM on January 18, 2013

But yes, it depends entirely on your district and how old your child is and what kind of emergency you might have. I would definitely call your local EMS director or liaison and ask them.

This is the best advice. Just head up to the firehouse and tell them your story and find out from them what their procedures are. Maybe a medic alert bracelet for you?

But the rest of the posters are right too. Emergencies like this are when people are generally at their best. The grumpy neighbor who yells at kids for looking at her yard might just be the first one to insist that she care for the kid(s), and show them a wonderful time.
posted by gjc at 5:00 AM on January 18, 2013

You might want to start teaching your son to call 911 himself. Even if he's not verbal, by calling 911 they'll send someone out to investigate.

It's good to use the land line for this because it will give 911 the address where the call is made.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2013

When I was the kid in this situation, I went to a neighbor's house.

You can see if your city has Smart 911, which should let the first responders know that there's a kid in the house, what your husband's work phone number is, if you have a nearby friend or relative... all that good stuff.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Paramedic here. Like others have said, there are many "it depends" kind of answers to this question. In my current two departments, we have the capability to take one child of carseat age with us, but we may not do so depending on the severity of your condition. We don't want to scare him or step on him if we have to make things happen quickly, and we certainly wouldn't want him to witness anything terrible, as we cannot put the child seat in the cab.

In that case, your son will get to hang out with police officers or the fire crew (who can both be just as doting as nurses) until someone can be contacted--this is made easier if you have contact information on your fridge or in your pocketbook/wallet. If you are incapacitated but not on death's door, your son will get to go play with the aforementioned awesome nurses at the ED.

However, there are many systems around the globe that function in very different ways.

It's a long shot, but if you're in the Philadelphia area or any of the surrounding states, it's likely that I've worked in a system similar to yours, or I know someone who has. MeMail me if you'd like me to find out for you.
posted by skyl1n3 at 3:20 PM on January 18, 2013

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