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What Should Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons (Chapter 3)

It only took a day to realize that the experience of riding in a police car and two days in the ER did nothing to help Sunshine's behaviors.

She was still in crisis.

There was nothing anyone could do to make this madness stop.

It was time to return to the ER.

After our experience in the first ER, several therapists and specialists recommended taking her to an ER over the mountain nearest our home, only 45 minutes away.

That's what we decided to do.

So the arrangements began.

This time we experienced what should happen when your child is in the ER for mental health reasons.

What Should Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons

Our intensive in-home therapist drove Sunshine and I to the ER while my husband stayed home with the other three kiddos, packing lunches and getting them ready to be shipped off to friends' homes for the day until he could pick them up after his shift around midnight.

I had already packed everything I knew I would need before Sunshine woke up.  It was all ready to go.

Admittance

At the ER, we were immediately taken back to check in.  During that check-in process Sunshine made it clear she was not happy to be there.

No one questioned what we were telling them.

We were escorted back to a room designed for someone who is a danger to herself or others.

They were taking us seriously.

To be believed was such a incredible feeling.

The Room

The room had one chair, a hospital bed, a sink and a TV encased in a protective shell high up on one wall close the ceiling.

One wall was metal, as if it was a pull down door.  The main door to the room had a second smaller door inside it with a lock, in case it was needed.

All of my things were locked in a set of drawers right outside her room.  I was permitted to have my cell phone so long as I could prevent her from reaching it.

Care

Nurses immediately came in to get vitals, obtain information about behaviors and help us settle.

They were compassionate. They were caring.  They were respectful.

Seeing Sunshine's agitation, the head nurse, who happened to be male, immediately set up a plan of incentives and reinforcers to prevent any unsafe behaviors.

A security guard came in with a metal detector to make sure Sunshine wasn't hiding anything under her clothes. Having traveled by airplane, Sunshine was familiar with this process.  We called the wand a "magic wand" so she was a bit more excited when it happened.

In less than an hour a medical doctor with a nurse was in Sunshine's room to do a full exam and once again ask about behaviors.

A psychiatrist came to the room shortly thereafter to speak to me.

There was no question that Sunshine needed help.

Everyone believed me.

Behavior Protocol

In between people coming in and out of the room Sunshine was extremely agitated.  She tried to elope several times.  When I would block the door she would become aggressive.

I was unaware that there was a camera in the room when this first started.  It took only seconds after her aggression started that nurses were in the room trying to calm and redirect her.  They had been watching at the nurses station.

All of use knew that Sunshine was not herself. She was in crisis.

The nurses were kind and loving towards her, knowing she needed help and that this was not her normal.

There was no judgment towards Sunshine or me as her parent.

I broke into tears of relief for the immediate help and support.  No longer would I have to do this by myself like we had in the other hospital.  These people really cared and wanted to help Sunshine receive the help she so desperately needed.

These episodes of aggression happened several times with multiple interventions.

Realizing that it was not safe to leave Sunshine in the room with me or by herself, the nurses made a plan to have a third person join us in the room to try to distract her, with a security guard outside the door.

Our helper was an EMT. She brought in crayons, coloring books, stickers, and fun activities to do with Sunshine.

No restraints were permitted in this hospital.

A request for a sedative was put in to the doctor.

The approved request took a couple of hours.  Our helper stayed with us the entire time.

The oral medication was given with applesauce.

There was no trauma.

There were no needles.

As far as Sunshine was concerned, she just needed medicine to help her feel better and was having a yummy snack.

A security guard and helper remained with us until everyone was sure the sedative took affect.  They would not leave until they knew Sunshine could be safe.

I thought I would be more upset with my child being sedated, but after so many days of continued aggression I had nothing left in me to give and knew this was the only way to calm her down until we could get help.

The sedation was a tremendous help when it came time to get blood work later on.  It took three of us to hold her down even with the sedation, but we were able to make it through it.

Blood work was the most traumatic experience of our stay at this ER.

The Waiting Game

Once all of the doctors and nurses had finished their jobs, the waiting game began.  There were still no beds available.

The head nurse placed an order for Sunshine's dinner when it was time.  Her food allergy diet was followed to the T.

After dinner Sunshine quickly fell asleep.

My husband arranged for a friend to bring me dinner and visit.  It was so nice to have someone to talk to.  Otherwise I was just watching TV alone.

While at the hospital I couldn't charge my phone except for at the nurses station, so I had to stay off it as much as possible.  No outlets were in Sunshine's room.  Cords were not permitted.

Sunshine woke up briefly. The sedative made her extremely agitated.  We laid in her hospital bed together. I rubbed her back until she was down for the night.

Staff did bring in a reclining chair, but the hospital bed was far more comfortable so we slept together all night long.

Night staff were great.  They would watch Sunshine if I had to run to the bathroom.  If I needed my drawers unlocked, they would do so.

During the night they did not wake Sunshine for vitals.  And in the morning, they let me know they had ordered both Sunshine and I breakfast trays.

By morning the sedation had warn off.  Once again we went through the same series of attempts at elopement and aggression.  A security guard was brought into the room to help until the sedative arrived and took effect.

Once again there was no trauma related to the experience. The security guards and helpers were so wonderful bringing in activities to do with Sunshine.  Everyone was so kind.

Sunshine and I then spent the day watching TV, walking back and forth to the water cooler and to the bathroom still waiting for a bed.

At lunch time, once again trays were ordered for both Sunshine and myself.

And then it happened...

Transport to a Children's Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital 

At about 1 PM, a nurse came in.  She had come to announce that a bed had opened up at the child psych ward closest to the hospital where we had prayed Sunshine would be admitted.  (It was the closest one to our home and so many had raved about it.)

The psych ward had initially wanted to take another child waiting but the nurse pushed them to take Sunshine.  I cried tears of joy and gave her a big hug.

Sunshine was sleeping again at that point.

I was in shock and so relieved we didn't have to spend another night at the hospital.

More paperwork had to be filled out.  More vitals needed to be taken.  Another physical exam was given.  A security guard swiped her again with the metal detector.

By 4 PM, paramedics arrived for transport to the inpatient facility.

Sunshine was quite anxious about this process.  One of the paramedics was amazing with her, walking her through the process of being strapped into the stretcher, helping her adjust to the movement of the stretcher while walking her through the halls to the ambulance.

I never would have thought that the ambulance ride would have bothered me so much, but even as I write this I tear up.  The emotions I felt in that moment as she was loaded into the ambulance...  It was so hard to hold back tears.

I was unable to sit in the back of the ambulance with Sunshine, but her favorite paramedic was with her.  My spot was in the front.

The paramedic driving could sense my emotions.  He spoke with me the entire way to the inpatient facility.

Never have I been so thankful for the kind and gentle voice of a stranger who could not imagine what I was feeling, but could keep me calm in the moment.  He had a special needs child at home too.

The ride was short.  We were met at the door by nurses who took me one way and Sunshine another.  And that was it.  My daughter was officially being admitted into an inpatient psych ward after four days waiting in two different ERs.

If you enjoyed this post and/or you want to understand what brought us to this point or what happened next please read the posts below.
Call the Police! What You Don't Want to Have Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons What Should Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons Check-in-at an inpatient children's psychiatric hospital My Daughter is inpatient at a Children's Psych Ward Our First Family Session in a Psych Ward Nine Days This Was Not Okay Miracles To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Special Needs Support and Resources
What Should Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons

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