Baby's First Ambulance Ride - A Lesson in Child Safety

Photo credit: ewen and donabel on Flickr
Photo credit: ewen and donabel on Flickr

When my daughter was nearly two she gave me the fright of my life. She's always loved housework, and this particular day she was helping me load clothes into the washing machine.

We use those gel washing tabs instead of washing powder, and as we were putting in the clothes I placed the gel tab towards the back of the drum (foolishly thinking this was "out of reach"). After grabbing some more washing from the basket, I saw out of the corner of my eye my daughter sucking on something blue. Something very familiar, which was supposed to be in the washing machine... Before I could stop her she had bitten a chunk out of it. And being a capsule full of liquid, it burst.

Having a washing tab bursting in her face, combined with the foul taste (or at least I imagine it to be foul) of washing detergent, caused my daughter to let out a piercing scream. This scream was matched only by the sheer panic going through my mind.

From many years of doing washing, I had noticed the big black cross on the side of the washing tab box. And I had read many times over what it meant. "If swallowed, seek medical advice immediately." It didn't give any further instructions though, like what to do in the meantime; (should I try to make her sick? should I give her water? or breast milk, since I was still nursing? - The answers to all of these questions turned out to be NO by the way). Nor did it give me any clues about what might happen once swallowing had occurred.

But the immediate medical attention bit I could do. I called an ambulance. And while I was talking to them, my daughter threw up in my lap. This made me feel slightly relieved, (sticky, but relieved!), and also seemed to have a positive effect on my little girl, who soon started chattering away happily.

The woman on the other end of the phone said she was sending an ambulance around. By now my daughter was calm, but I was still feeling panicky. That big black cross on the side of the box still haunted me. I turned on Peppa Pig. My daughter did her happy dance, I tried not to panic.

Photo credit: markellis on Flickr
Photo credit: markellis on Flickr
Photo credit: den99 on Flickr
Photo credit: den99 on Flickr

The doorbell soon rang. Two friendly paramedics came into the front room and had a long conversation with my little girl about Peppa Pig and the entire Pig family. How lucky to get paramedics who were Peppa Pig fans!

She was delighted with her new friends, and her new friends said that she seemed fine. I breathed a sigh of relief, but they said we should still come to the hospital so they could observe her for the next few hours, just in case. Looking at this animated and happy little sprite it was hard to believe that we needed to go, but then I didn't want to take any chances.

Packing up a few things we went into the waiting ambulance. It was dark now and a few concerned neighbours had come outside to see what the ambulance was for. Explaining what had happened I felt like a really bad mother. How could I have let her get anywhere near that exciting-looking blue thing? A few minutes into the journey my daughter went quiet and then started to whimper. And before my very eyes red spots started appearing on her face and then all over her body.

A neurotic mum at the best of times, now I was really panicking - what was going to happen to her? I was so glad we'd agreed to come, I imagined how it would have been if we'd refused to come to the hospital and then this had happened at home.

Once at the hospital, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, she became lively again. To her this was a big adventure and she wasn't going to let a few spots stop her from having fun! In the children's casualty she was thrilled to see all the toys and was soon making friends.

I got talking to another mum who said she has to spend a lot of her life there in the children's department. Her three children kept getting bronchiolitis, which causes breathing problems, and she's always there with one or the other of them. Another mother was here getting blood tests for her daughter whose hair was falling out for no obvious reason. How lucky I felt that this was our first hospital visit; the worry that something might be wrong with one's precious child is so intense, and I didn't want to repeat that.

We saw a nurse who assessed her and said we should hang around for a few hours, but still not give her any food. The poor girl was getting hungry and complained often, but breast milk went some way to stave off hunger pangs, and she managed to distract herself intermittently with toys.

Some time later we saw a doctor who, amazingly, had not come across anyone ingesting washing tabs before. He consulted by phone with somebody from the Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital, and they concluded that she should have a spoon of anti-allergy medicine Piritin. The spots were a kind of allergic reaction to something inside the washing liquid, and didn't seem to be a cause for alarm. After a further hour, (it was now around 11pm), we were told we could go home. Amazingly we still had to drag her away from the Lego!

I felt so lucky that she was okay, and dreaded to think of how bad it could have been. Suffice it to say that this horrible experience made me much more careful about keeping cleaning products out of sight and not just out of reach. And it made me realise that little children can get into everything; you should never underestimate their curiosity!

Now four, my little one loves telling the story of the time she "ate the blue thing, and the men came". Yes, her memory is impressive, and she speaks fondly of the experience. For her it is a happy memory. It's amazing how differently two people can remember a single event.

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