Hospitals and Mama Bears

I had my Mama Bear come out for the first time the other day. I had never experienced this before. My adrenaline was high; I was willing to do anything for my son until he got the help he needed. It takes a lot of strength to not go full crazy on the person who brings the Mama Bear out to play.


Recently, I experienced this sensation in the Emergency Room. Now, the Emergency Room is a unique place for this to happen. The nurses constantly have to decide whether or not something is a true emergency. They have to decide whether this Mama Bear in front of them has a justified reason to be that way. After all, people come to the ER by ambulance because the other party involved are attempting to avoid liability issues. These people are triaged and then, taken to the waiting room. Then, you have the people who call an ambulance to try and cut the line. However, they do not end up cutting the line because they are not experiencing an emergency. Unfortunately, people who try to abuse the system can mess things up for other people that are experiencing an actual emergency.



Recently I took my 15-month-old son into the ER for suspected pneumonia and breathing problems. 13 days before this we had taken him to urgent care. An x-ray showed that he had haziness in his chest. After being passed around between hospitals, our son received steroids and 2 nebulizer treatments. Thankfully, that stabilized him and we were able to go home.


Four days later we followed up with his pediatrician. She informed us that he only had bronchiolitis but, if he started to get worse to take him in right away. She advised us that he might develop pneumonia. The day I took him to ER he had a cough, runny nose, was not as active as usual, and was breathing fast. These were all symptoms that the doctor told us to look out for. In hopes of avoiding the ER, I gave him his rescue inhaler. Unfortunately, it did not help and he was breathing 48 breaths per minute.


I drove our son to the military ER because the civilian ER turned us away last time because they did not have a pediatric ward. When we arrived, I explained the situation to the person checking us in. I told them everything that I have written so far. They had us sit and wait. I did not have a problem with that because it is an emergency room and he was stable. After all, somebody could be in critical condition for all I know.


Our son is extremely active. The first time we took him in for breathing issues, he was crawling up the stairs while gasping for air. He did not care that he could barely breathe until it started to become more worrisome. As we waited in the ER, our son was naturally playing and running around. Suddenly, I noticed that he was starting to decline. I began to gather our stuff so that we could head to the front desk. As I was packing, the lady next to me informed me that she is a nurse at CHKD Urgent Care. She agreed with me that he was declining and he needed to be seen right away.


I went up to the front counter and said, “when we got here my son was stable. I did not mind waiting for the past 2 hours. However, he is now struggling to breathe and needs to be seen now.” Now you would think that if a breathing issue was brought up for a young toddler, that you would send somebody out right away to at the very least count his breaths. Instead, I was told that he would be taken back next to have his vitals taken. I went back to my seat and stared at the door. I was waiting for that door to open and for our last name to be called. Instead, a nurse called somebody else back. (I knew that she was a nurse because I went to high school with her.)

At that point, I went back to the counter and asked why somebody else was taken back. She stated that they were getting a bed and not vitals. Now, do you think a nurse could have easily looked at him?? I decided to stand up there because I needed him to be seen right away. My adrenaline was high and I knew my son was not doing well. The next thing I know, another nurse comes out and calls other people back for a bed. At this point, I confront the nurse and explain that we were supposed to be seen next. She seems dumbfounded and taken aback. Thankfully, the person taking vitals goes to get paperwork for the next person in line. The front desk lady gives him my son’s paperwork instead. He complains that now everything is out of order. I am sorry but, there is no order in an ER. It is based off who needs care immediately versus those who can wait.


He puts the o2 monitor on my son for a few seconds and says he is fine. I told him he is not. He points to the waves on the machine and says he is. The waves were not actually stabilized and he did not have an o2 number to give me. According to peds that means it is not an accurate read. This guy never listened to my son with a stethoscope. I kept saying he was not breathing well and he responded with, “he does look like he is struggling to breathe but, his o2 is fine. I need you to go back to the waiting room for a few minutes.” I was shocked that somebody would comment on his breathing and then, send us back to the waiting room. At this point, I was lost. I was obviously not getting anywhere with this guy. He had originally checked us in. Therefore he knew our situation for 2 hours and did not care. Thankfully, on the way back to the waiting room, somebody said they were going to take us back to a bed.


After we got to our room, I am assuming the head nurse, complained to the front desk person that she put us in front of the line. She told her that she messed up her order. If you are sitting across from our room, why would you say that? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve encountered nurses who feel like they can say whatever they want when they are out of the room. Sometimes your patients can see you and hear you.



Fast forward 45 minutes and somebody finally came in to listen to my son. She came in and my son was crying. He had previously touched the call button and a staff member came in to let me know that he was playing with the buttons. I apologized and explained that I thought it was broken because the channel buttons were not working. Apparently, only the call button worked on the remote. Therefore, my son was crying because I would not let him press the buttons. Rather than trying to see if she could help calm him down, she said there was no point in listening to him now and left the room.


We had now been at the hospital for 3 hours and nobody had listened to my son. I was made to feel like I was just making it up. I managed to calm my son down and paged the person back in to listen to him. She said he sounded fine. I explained the o2 reading when we got here was wrong. She ended up dismissing me and leaving the room. Once again, nobody counted his breaths.


Thankfully, my husband had finally gotten off work and was able to join us at the hospital by this point. Somebody came in and took our son to get an x-ray. Later a different nurse came in and explained that his x-ray was fine. At the time, my son was sleeping on me. Therefore, he listened to him and said he sounded fine without waking him. Once again, I explained his o2 was wrong but, I was dismissed and his breaths were not counted again.

This is a situation that I struggle with because this nurse was trying to be sympathetic and give our son a break. Is that so wrong? I am sure it is an internal battle of when to be invasive in a nurses head. Unfortunately, if he had just looked at our son’s chest, he would have seen how drastically his chest was going in and out. In this case, that break was the wrong thing.


Our son became extremely lethargic and was laying perfectly still. Yet again, he was not hooked up to a machine and his o2 levels were not checked. I felt hopeless. I did not know whether to go out there and start yelling at people or continue to lay with my little one. At one point I looked at my husband and said, “well, if he codes out or something, at least they are all right there.”


After us being in the room for 3 hours, the doctor came into the room. She immediately noticed our son’s chest and asked how long that he had been like that. I explained the situation and what we had been dealing with. I could tell that she was livid with her staff. She apologized a few times and stated that she was told a different story of how he was doing. After all, nobody had believed me beforehand. She immediately called peds and started ordering tests. He was hooked up to machines in a matter of minutes. They put on 2 different heart monitors to ensure that they were getting an accurate reading.


Peds came down and ordered a 3 pack, 3 nebulizers treatments, and steroids. My husband and I did all three treatments by ourselves. Our son screamed bloody murder throughout the treatments. My heart was breaking as I watched our son feel betrayed by us. We were forcing him to do something and he had lost all control. I am sure that is a horrible feeling for him but, the staff was not concerned with that. Instead, they were concerned with noise. We were reminded of this as they would come by and shut the door that they had left open.


Peds Ward


We finally get to the 3rd nebulizer treatment. It was my turn to hold the mask to our son’s face. This was the first time I had seen the pure look of struggle in my son’s eyes. My husband had held the mask for the prior treatments. Suddenly, my son’s heart rate was 215 and the machine was going crazy. The next thing I knew, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he was unresponsive. Naturally, I thought that he was having a seizure. I pressed the call button about 10 times in a row and nobody came in. Now, you would think that if the screaming suddenly stopped, the machine was going crazy, and the call button was being pressed multiple times that somebody would come in right away. Instead, we were ignored once again.


I opened the door to our room to find one person behind the counter and one on the other side. Both were literally right outside our room. I know that they can see stats behind the counter. A 215 heart rate should have had them in there right away. I told them I thought my son was having a seizure. 5 people rushed into the room. The doctor showed up about 30 seconds later and asked what happened. I explained everything. Once again, I could tell that she was very upset with her staff. The reality is that if they had come in right away, they would have seen the episode.


Peds came back down and said most likely he had passed out. My problem with this entire visit was that unless it was a doctor, we were treated like we were making this up. If just one person had taken a second to count his breaths and realized he needed a nebulizer, I strongly believe he would not have declined so much. However, due to staff being negligent, my son had to be admitted. They did not take a breathing issue seriously. That is how patients die. Perhaps they should not have looked at me as a parent trying to cut the line and tried to diagnose my son.


My son ended up having RSV, Rhinovirus, and Enterovirus. He had 5 nebulizer treatments and a lot of steroids before we left the hospital the next day. Thankfully, peds was amazing and catered to his needs. Magically, they gave him a treatment when we got up there without him crying. The bigger miracle was that I somehow slept through the 3 am treatment. That is how amazing they were.



A breathing issue should never be dismissed. If it is a concern, that person should be hooked up to an o2 monitor no matter what. It is sickening that because people did not do their job and assumed I just wanted to cut the line, that my son did not get the care he needed.


This was the scariest and heartbreaking situation that I have ever experienced. Whenever your child is in danger, it hits you harder than when it’s yourself. I hope that if you are reading this article that you take a moment to think about whether you need to go to the ER or urgent care. Can you wait or is it life or death? I encourage you to think are you tired of waiting and trying to abuse the system? When this is done, it ruins things for those who truly need help immediately. If you are a doctor, nurse, or somebody who works in the emergency department, I strongly encourage you to not make assumptions and do basic steps like listen to somebody. Please, it could be life or death. All I have to say is thank goodness for the good doctors and nurses out there. I do not know where we would be without the amazing Pediatricians we encountered.