Questions can be tough, even deceptively easy ones.
What is wrong?
When you hear that from a loved one, sometimes the answer can be as simple as “I accidentally drank the last of the milk, so you won’t be able to make cookies (except by “milk” I mean “five beers,” and by “be able to make cookies” I mean “have naughty time with me”). However, this time it was an adorable little 5 month old. I asked the simple question “why are you in the ER today?” The mom of the year (MOTY) answered, “This is America, my baby needs health care.”
I think all babies deserve health care. However, “needing healthcare” still strikes me as an odd reason to go to the emergency department at three am. “I’m bored,” might have been a better answer. Or possibly, “I just broke out of an insane asylum using sharpened plastic spoons and I like to gargle gasoline while juggling porcupines.”
Me: “I’m still not sure why you are here now, please help me out.”
MOTY: Why am I here?
Me: “Are you being existential?”
MOTY: Don’t curse at me.
Me: Sorry, let’s start over. Why did you bring your child to the ER today?
MOTY: I told you, he needs healthcare.
Me: “Right. Could you be a little more specific? Is there an actual reason you thought your child needed healthcare?”
MOTY: He don’t have health care, so I’m here.
Me: Ah. So is there a problem with your child.
MOTY: Ain’t you listening?
Me: Apparently not.
I tried to explain how a child’s health is not like a gas tank, it does not slowly decrease over time, requiring you go to the hospital to fill up the health tank. Mom continued to gape, befuddled by my why are you here question, so… we pressed onward.
I asked my normal questions… drinking well (yes) peeing (yes) pooping(yes) activity good (yes) easily consoled (yes) alert/active (yes) immunizations (yes) hydrated (yes) fever(no) taking meds(no) allergic (no) vomiting (yes). AHA! Here we go, something abnormal. The child vomited two days ago, thus mom was not actually 100% insane (though why she did not volunteer this information, I’ll never know, nor why she came at 3am, two days after the event). So the patient received Zofran, and had no vomiting, the kid drank a bottle, kept it down, and did fine. We filled up the tank with health care, and by health care I mean, nothing. Excellent. Oh, and could you please stop smoking around your five month old? No? Great.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know that kids don’t come with instruction manuals; and any two idiots with the right parts can make one, but at least give me a clue as to why you came to see me. I feel sorry for the nurses when they have to put down “Chief Complaint: unsure.”
Either way, everyone was happy, especially the baby, who now was gnawing on Cheetos with orange fingers. I tried to intervene and give a little education, perhaps rice cereal before Cheetos? No? Great, have a nice day. Come back when you need a refill of health.