Before I begin my initial post for Traveling Dad I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself.
My name is David, and I’m father to two amazing and too-smart-for-their-own-good boys, aged 5 and 2.5 (we celebrated his half birthday this week). My wife and I have been married just over 8 wonderful years, and I must say that I picked the very best partner in life to co-pilot me on this journey through marriage and fatherhood.
Back in the fall of 2001, I joined Joy Products, Inc., a New York based advertising specialties and premiums business, which my parents founded back in 1972. One of the biggest advantages of being my own boss is that I’m afforded the opportunity to be present for all of my children’s special moments, without worry of “boss approval.” One of the biggest perks of all, is the ability to travel when and where I would like, given proper coverage at work.
And so my first post begins with a cautionary tale about planning for emergency medical needs while travelling. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson the hard way about two summers ago during a road trip to visit my wife’s cousins in Harrisburg, PA.
There for a bar mitzvah, we were staying at a Hampton Inn off the interstate for two nights. Night one was completely uneventful, or rather, as uneventful as a hotel room stay could be with a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. We woke up, had breakfast, and went off to the temple for the service part of the bar mitzvah. Following lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel for a swim in the pool, before resting up for the night’s festivities.
Just as we pulled into the parking spot, my older one says “I don’t feel good.”
We could see his eyes suddenly glazing over, and he looked extremely pale. We unbuckled him, and started to head to the entrance when he leaned over and vomited all over himself. We cleaned ourselves up as best we could, and made our way back up to the room, figuring maybe he had eaten something at lunch that wasn’t agreeing with him. It was naptime, and both boys had no issues falling asleep for two hours.
Upon waking, he still didn’t seem right. He felt very warm, and we took his temp. He had 102. We knew then that the evening was probably not going to happen as planned, as one of my wife or I would be staying back with a sick 3 year old in the hotel room.
We had known enough to bring our emergency sick kit with us, which included a thermometer and Tylenol. We gave him Tylenol, and hoped for the best, figuring we’d head back out in the morning, and try to get to our regular pediatrician on Sunday morning. By 5 pm, he turned pale again, and started vomiting every few minutes, I drove to a local CVS to get some Pedialyte, but he couldn’t keep that down either. It was pretty clear he was starting to dehydrate, and we were in over our heads.
We called our pediatrician, who told us we were doing the right thing, and keep trying to get liquids in him. Unfortunately, everything that went in, came right back out, and he started to lack the energy to even sit up. My wife is a labor and delivery nurse, and prior to that, was an emergency room nurse. She knew that our son was probably in need of IV fluids in the near future.
Fifteen miles away from the nearest hospital, I instead chose to Google the nearest Urgent Care center. Finding one just 5 miles away, we carried our son to the car, my wife sitting in the back with him with a bag to catch the next round of throw up. We were able to leave our 8 month old with relatives also at the hotel. We made it there in about 10 minutes. At this point, he was starting to fade in and out of sleep, and each time he’d pass back out I’d go into a panic. I had never seen him so sick, and though I was confident in the ability of the Urgent Care to help him, seeing your child in such distress is scary and alarming.
With both my wife and I in tears at this point, the doctor on call told us that our son needed IV fluids, but, they were not licensed to administer IV’s or any medicine to children. This was especially frustrating, as prior to going there I had called to make sure they could treat our 3-year-old.
They gave us a choice, they could direct us to Hershey Medical Center about 15 miles away which had a children’s department, OR, they could call an ambulance to take us all there. Panicking, we told them to call the ambulance. My wife went with our son, and I followed behind in the car, panicking and crying the whole way, not knowing what was wrong.
Once at Hershey, it took about 20 minutes, before he was getting fluids, and the vomiting stopped. Within an hour, he was perked up. We weren’t released until about 1 am, but by then we had all finally calmed down. While they hadn’t found the source of the illness, we were thrilled to see him somewhat return to his regular personality, and alertness. We happily all drove back to the hotel, got about 6 hours of sleep, and then made our way back to Long Island to see our regular pediatrician. Our drama wasn’t over though, as he went through a battery of tests over the next few days, as a rash and other symptoms emerged. In the end, it was a case of Mononucleosis.
We didn’t realize though what had truly happened, until weeks later when the bills began to arrive.
First, a $400 bill from the Urgent Care center, which was NOT on our insurance. We actually didn’t know this at the time, as when we got there they took our insurance card, but did not tell us that there would be no coverage. The second bill arrived a few days later, $1,200 for a private ambulance ride. And lastly, a $100 copay from the hospital, which DID luckily take our insurance. We did argue with the insurance company about the ambulance ride, as that was supposed to be covered. It took a bunch of phone calls, and speaking to many different departments over a few days, but eventually we were able to have that dropped.The problem stemmed from the Urgent Care calling a private ambulance, rather than calling Hershey Medical Center for the ambulance.
The whole experience taught us important lessons about preparing for medical emergencies while on the road. To recap:
- A thermometer and a bottle of Tylenol, while helpful, is not going to get us through a serious and sudden illness.
- When travelling to a specific destination, always make sure that there is a hospital nearby that will accept your insurance in the case of an emergency.
- While super convenient, we learned that while they are en vogue, not all Urgent Care Centers are equipped to handle children, and they may not give you accurate information over the phone.
- Before setting out on a trip or vacation, always make sure you have a game plan for any medical needs;
- Above all, make sure you understand the specifics on the back of your insurance card for copays and emergency care. Most hospitals will accept most of the most common insurance carriers, but please be aware of your copays. Ours covered $1000 for ambulance transport, so in the end, we only had a $200 payment.
At the end of the day, we ended up about $700 out of pocket for non-covered care, and we have vowed to never again be unprepared for the unforeseen.