This past week my daughter slipped on the ice at school and was complaining of a pain in her wrist. “You need to take me in to the doctor,” she said in tears the next day. I’d been to the clinic with one of her brothers a few days earlier after hearing him moan for a couple days about a stomachache. The doctor found nothing to be alarmed about, and I wondered later if the trip to the clinic was, in fact, the cure. He did get some really cool stickers, after all, and during an amazing turn of events, the tummy problems disappeared the minute we got into the van. So when my daughter chimed in about her wrist, I froze. Will this be another false alarm? Another afternoon spent in a crowded waiting room, only to be transported to yet another waiting room to wait some more, and then another for the X-rays, and finally, to be sent up to the original waiting room to hear the analysis that a few Tylenol should do the trick? In the end, I took her in, but I was relieved to leave after half my day had been taken up with the outing, knowing we were done with hospital visits for a while. (Ha!) I should have known better. A few hours later I was traveling the familar path, this time to the emergency-room entrance with another of my children. Thankfully, it was not a life-or-death emergency, but it was something that merited the attention of a doctor and is now, thankfully, resolved.
What I failed to mention above was the step that I could not have done without — the calls to Ask-A-Nurse. Our local Meritcare Hospital offers this nurseline to anyone, whether they are in the system or not. It is a free, 24-hour phone line that patients can call for advice in determining whether to seek the help of a physician. I have this line etched into my cell-phone numbers list. I’ve called the line so often through the years I’m surprised they don’t recognize my voice by now, but I imagine there are other voices they hear equally as often. Those voices are likely other conflicted parents wondering, To the Doc, or Not?
When a friend of mine moved with her family to Texas several years ago, she felt desperate yearnings for home. About a week into the move in one of her most difficult moments, she found the solace for which she’d been thirsting. Her son had a minor illness, and without even thinking twice she picked up her phone and dialed Ask-A-Nurse, as she had so many times before. She said hearing the familiar voice of the nurse from Fargo on the other end was as much a lifeline to her as the advice she was given. The nurse said she’d never gotten a call from so far away, but to my friend, it was a way to make an immediate connection with the place she so missed.
Sometimes there’s no question. Some emergencies are no-brainers. But more often than not we parents are stuck grappling with whether we want to rearrange the order of our entire day to possibly find out liquids and a good night’s rest would have done the trick. Do we err on the side of caution? Or are we overreacting? It can be stressful in that moment when we know there needs to be some follow-through to our kids’ complaints, and a nurse line can make all the difference in how we move through that stress.
Even though my friend and I laughed about her long-distance call to the nurse line, I can identify with her having found comfort in picking up the phone that lonely day in her new surroundings. The Ask-A-Nurse line has been a wonderful, comforting resource to many of us parents. These days, few of us have our wise grandmothers nearby to impart their well-earned intuition in such matters, but we still need guidance in this parenting journey.
On behalf of all parents who have ever phoned the nurse line, I’d like to say thank you, all you nurses out there, for taking us by the hand during those times when we were unable to think clearly about a medical situation. We rely on your kind expertise, and we are grateful for it.