Thursday, 15 November 2012

5 Things I Learned To Soothe Your Child in the ER

Tonight every working mom's nightmare happened : my little girl had to be brought to the hospital while I was working at the office.

A telco with another time zone finished by 7 pm and inertia hit me : which means I stayed an hour longer finishing some things.  Then Awesome Guy called and delivered the news of Ladybug Girl's nasty fall which split her chin open and slammed guilt and dread into my heart.

In a blessed calm, I drove to St. Luke's Global City to meet them.  I got there before the surgeon arrived so I could make her feel more comfortable and safe.

Still, we weren't prepared for the pain that numbing spray would cause and we started the horrible ordeal with sobbing screams and twists of pain - which went on because the spray did not work so well during the irrigation of her wound.  Later on I realized that the knife in my heart was what Mama Mary had to be feeling watching Jesus : if you could bear your child's pain yourself you gladly would.  But at that moment, I was hyperfocused on getting Ladybug Girl through the nightmare with as much strength as I could inspire in her.

After reflecting on it, these were some of things I was sure gave her strength and courage.  
1.  Past stories of how mommy and other people she knows went through something similar.  Ideally launch into this during the early part of tense waiting.

2.  Having read books that conditioned her about hospitals, emergency rooms, that bacteria causes sickness, doctors and their tools, what is blood, clots, how wounds heal thanks to blood.  I once thought those topics were too advanced for Ladybug Girl at 3 years old but now I am thankful we had read them.  Example: "I see the bacteria being washed away now, now the white blood cells can start to heal it."

3.  Articulating to her what she is feeling whether scared or in pain.  This shows that you understand rather than blustering your way through blanket encouragements to be brave, or to trivialize what she is going through by saying 'it's ok'.  Example: "It burns so much, doctor, ouch!  that's enough ok, time for the next step"

4.  Explaining what to expect in words that are familiar to them : part of this is counting the steps, and countdown to when each step would be done.  Don't forget to finish your sentences with "so that..." to explain why and not just what will happen.  Example: "So brave, Ladybug Girl!  Last step to go and we will count to fifteen so that the skin glue will make your wound smaller."

5.  Telling her that Jesus, Mama Mary and her Guardian Angel is watching over her to make sure she will be okay.  I had thought of praying aloud with her, but decided it may make her panic.  But at the height of her pain, I told her that they were there.  She opened her eyes to look wildly around for reassurance.  In hindsight, I should have rephrased this as "close your eyes and remember that Jesus is here".

(Click here for how we used play to recover from her trauma in the days after.)

The most reassuring thing to remember is that if you know your child, then you will naturally know what will work for her and more importantly, what doesn't.  Case in point: someone tried to play with her but she needed familiarity not distraction.  This might not be true for other kids.

I am so proud of my little trooper tonight.  We were both teary eyed after I told this to her at bedtime.  She knows her accomplishment.  She was back to her old self soon after, but now as she lays asleep beside me she still sob-hiccups once in a while.  (Update: two nights later, she still gets bad dreams and yells 'ow-ow!' in her sleep)

I've always loved her somewhat-clefty little chin.  Sad to think there will be a scar there after tonight.

There will also be a scar in my heart after tonight that I failed my Ladybug Girl.  That tonight my priorities were wrong.

I hope this post inspires me and countless others like me to "do your best" but still -- yes, still -- "get it right".  


  1. Wonderful tips! Did she need stitches or just the glue? At least trauma of getting stitches was avoided! The scars she picks up along the way just means she's growing up. Ladybug girl is the cutest!

  2. You're the sweetest :) She only got the glue because I wanted to spare her the trauma of stitches. But in hindsight, if she had just gotten an anaesthesia injection she would've just slept and not felt all the pain of the procedure. The wound would heal slightly better too!


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