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What I Learned When I Had to Call 911

I’m the WORST person to have around in an emergency. I freeze, I panic; I am basically worthless. When I was in high school, I was driving to school and turned the corner to find my best friend and her sister had been in a car accident. I pulled over, saw they were okayish, and tried to call their dad from my cell phone. Even though I drove that route every day, I couldn’t put words together or even recall what the street names were. Finally, after stumbling incoherently on my words for a really long time, my friend, with a broken, bloody nose, said, “Jen, we’re at this street and this street.”

So, it came as no surprise to me that when my husband and I had to call 911 when our 9-month-old daughter had a febrile seizure, I was unable to think logically, turn brain words into mouth words, or do anything, really. Thankfully, my husband was there to do the calling but it made me realize how unprepared I was for an emergency. Hopefully everyone who is reading this is much better at rising to the occasion than I am but in case you’re like me, I learned a few things from that night that might be helpful if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation.

What I Learned When I Had to Call 911

They Don’t Say “911, What’s Your Emergency?”

All the movies have you believe that’s how the dispatchers answer your call but given we live in the day of cell phones, our phone call was answered with, “What’s your address?” This might not seem like a big difference but in a moment of panic, it’s a huge mind shift. Even my cool-as-a-cucumber husband stuttered on that one because he was expecting to say, “My daughter is having a seizure!” Plus, we had just moved into our house three weeks prior and our address didn’t exactly roll off the tongue yet.

This led me down a rabbit hole of “what if’s”? What if we were at a friend’s house and I had to call 911 FOR my friend. Could I say that friend’s address? These days I don’t know anyone’s address; I just arrive at their house and don’t give a second thought to how I got there. Now I’m in the habit of putting everyone’s address in my phone, so at the very least I have it to access, even if it would take me a minute to scroll through my contacts.

They Ask For Your Cross Streets

In addition to your address, they want to know your closest major cross streets. Since we were new to the area, the cross streets that came to my mind were not the most accurate and again, fortunately, my husband was making the call and we was able to give the dispatcher the actual cross streets.

This, again, led me down a rabbit hole. Would a babysitter know our cross streets? Most likely, no. Now whenever we have a sitter, I print off a note sheet with all of our emergency numbers, our address, and our cross streets. That information is also on a piece of paper on the side of our fridge so that anyone who comes to our house can see it too.

The Paramedics Will Want Details

This feels obvious but they want a LOT of details. When they asked how long my daughter seized, all I could scream in my head was, “Forever! It literally felt like forever.” In reality, it had maybe been two minutes. I should have been keeping better track of when the seizure started and when it stopped but again, I’m terrible at emergencies!

Now whenever my husband and I are sharing the responsibilities of taking care of a sick child, we keep a notepad on the counter next to the medicine, so we can write down the time and dosage of the medicine. This became especially helpful when she was released from the hospital and we were switching between ibuprofen and acetaminophen to get her fever down and we were exhausted and not thinking clearly. This information also would have been helpful to give to the paramedics when they asked what she had been taking, the dosage, the last time she took medicine, etc.

What I Learned When I Had to Call 911

Establish Your Emergency Contacts and Know When to Use Them

Since we were new to our neighborhood, we didn’t have a neighbor to quickly leave our son with when it was time to take my daughter in the ambulance. My husband stayed back and fortunately his parents were able to drive up from Denver to stay with my son while my husband joined us at the hospital but it took over an hour for them to get to Fort Collins.

I realized that we were lucky her seizure happened early in the evening because my in-laws don’t sleep with their phones near them. If it had been later in the evening, they wouldn’t have answered.

This emergency started discussions with our family and friends about future emergencies. Who are the people I could drop off my kids during a daytime emergency? Who are the people who could come to our house to stay in a nighttime emergency? I also make a point to tell people that I put my phone on nighttime mode from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. (because nothing makes this mom crankier than getting woken up by a non-emergency text) and to repeatedly call back in case THEY are having an emergency. I also create a new list of emergency contacts for the babysitter each time and revise based on who is out of town, which momma friend already has her hands full and really couldn’t help out, etc.

Car Seat Safety

I am really good about making sure my kids’ chest clips are always at their chest and that they never wear bulky clothing while in their car seat. However, I found out that night that I completely forgot one important part of car seat safety; making sure to change the placement of the shoulder straps. When one of the paramedics was loading my daughter into the ambulance in her rear-facing infant carrier, she noticed that the straps were above her shoulders when they should have been below her shoulders. The paramedic was awesome and changed them for me at the hospital but it made me realize that I need to do periodic car seat checks on my kids as they grow.

If you ever want a pair of expert eyes on your car seat, you can schedule an appointment with your local fire department and they can make sure it’s installed properly.

Here’s a great list of the places in Northern Colorado that do car seat checks.

I didn’t write this post to freak out mommas (we already have enough to freak out about, right?), but I hope that you got some useful information in case you ever do find yourself in an emergency situation!

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