Until two nights ago, I thought we were safety oriented. I thought we kept a close eye on the kids and danger out of reach. Someone is always with the baby, my four year old is only out of sight for short increments while I step out of the room and my tween is old enough he doesn’t need to be told anymore what is safe.
Having a baby in the house has directed all attention to safety towards her; keep small objects out of reach and cut her food small enough so she doesn’t choke, don’t leave sharp or hot items in reach that could cut or burn her, close the baby gate so she doesn’t fall on the stairs. These are just basic, commonsensical safety precautions. We have all heard and know the warnings, whether or not we have children.
Despite our best intentions, we made a critical error two nights ago. My husband took our four year old up for a bath. He went back downstairs to get something, leaving our daughter alone in the bathroom. He was only downstairs for maybe 10-15 seconds, enough time that he said he had a “feeling” and went back upstairs to check on our daughter. When he returned to the bathroom, our daughter appeared unharmed, however something was missing – literally.
You see, my husband takes medication in the evening. He had taken a bottle of water and one single pill with him to the bathroom and placed them on the side of the tub. While my daughter waited for him to return and start running the water for her bath, curiosity got the better of her and she ate his medication. Having had Halloween only days earlier, candy of all kinds has been presented, so I am sure she thought nothing of eating a pill. Not to mention Daddy takes them twice a day and is okay, so it must be okay.
I could hear a bit of commotion from the living room and thought nothing of it because, as I’m sure many parents can relate, my daughter can from time to time make a fuss about things, especially leading up to bedtime. What wasn’t usual however, was my husband was coming downstairs with her. I asked, “What happened?” He replied, “She ate my pill.”
A moment of pause. We just looked at each other for a few seconds with a shit,-what-do-we-do look in our eyes. “What do we do?” We both paced around with phones in our hands, trying to think of who to call. I called the doctor’s office to see if I could reach someone after hours. My husband called 9-1-1. The after hours voice messaging service seemed incredibly long and inefficient; I eventually hung up once dispatch answered my husband’s call.
Police, fire or ambulance? “Ambulance, maybe. I don’t know. My daughter ate my medication.” I listened to my husband’s responses and tried to read his reactions to what dispatch is telling him. At the same time, all of my three kids are awake so we are trying to stay as calm as possible, so not to scare anyone. I put on a cartoon to occupy the older two while the baby played on the floor.
Every second ticking by feels like minutes. All I can think is ‘how long until the medication starts effecting her? Is it going to effect her? How?’ I kept looking at my daughter, watching, waiting, expecting to notice a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, change in her behavior. Waiting for when calm is going out the window and for panic to set in.
I had my son watch out the front window for the ambulance and asked him to signal them when he sees them. I can remember learning this years ago; it helps responders spot locations, usually more effective in a rural area. How can I remember this and we made a stupid mistake like leaving a pill in the reach of a little kid?
My husband gets transferred to Poison Control and shortly after the paramedics arrive. One approached my daughter so sweetly and asked her to go with her. I could tell this had suddenly become real to her. She looked at me with a where-am-I-going, is-this-okay? look as she lifted her arms up to the paramedic. My husband ended the call with Poison Control.
She carried her to the ambulance and attached her to the gurney with a harness. She softened the what surely felt like chaos by giving my daughter a stuffed moose wearing a paramedic sweater. The paramedic attached the heart monitor pads to her and then all the wires. It felt like a movie. My husband climbed in; he’s riding with her to the hospital. Both of us were still uncertain what to expect. For now, I looked at the heat monitor and could tell her heart rate was good. That must be good.
They’re ready to go. I stepped off and went back inside where my son was watching the baby. I called my Mom and explained everything. The paramedics hadn’t encountered a child ingesting this particular medication, but she thought my daughter would be okay. I didn’t know what Poison Control had said up until now given that there was no time to debrief with my husband before he left. So now I just waited.
After a while, my husband let me know that after a discussion with the doctor regarding the medication and dose, my daughter would be okay and didn’t require any treatment. She may experience some symptoms at some point in the next few days, but would be okay. I was elated.
Thankfully my daughter got a hold of what she did and not something worse. We overestimated the maturity of a four year old; we thought she would know better than to eat that medication. In hindsight, I realize how foolish that was. My daughter still eats dirt and puts rocks in her mouth because she thinks it’s funny.
We learned a serious lesson about safety. It doesn’t end when your kids are old enough to understand what you tell them is safe and unsafe. They still need to be monitored and protected. I will never lose sight of how potentially disastrous that night could have been. I will let it serve as a reminder that things happen quickly and that we are not exempt from accidents.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Share below.