- When we were visiting friends in London, my daughter had an asthma attack due to allergies.
- My friends helped me navigate the UK health system, and we ended up in the emergency room.
My daughter has allergy induced asthma. This means that sometimes when she is around an allergen, each breath is marked by a wheezing.
He has a rescue inhaler with him for these episodes. Two sharp puffs and his breathing returns to normal.
Shortly before our trip to London to visit friends, his inhaler broke. I asked the pediatrician for a new one. The pediatrician said the next time she was wheezing I would need to bring her to the office if I needed a refill. I didn’t want to wait for an episode. I said what I needed was not a refill because the broken inhaler still contained the dose. The argument went in useless circles.
We went to London without an inhaler. My daughter gets very few asthma attacks a year, and the risk seemed almost non-existent.
Of course, it was not so.
The friends we were visiting had a dog, and the allergy pill was not enough to control his symptoms. My daughter had an allergy induced asthma attack in London – on Easter Sunday.
I called her pediatrician back to America
My first step was to call my pediatrician in the US. I left a message with the answering service and never got a call back.
Our friends in London helped us navigate the UK medical system, which initially seemed more complicated than the US system. Physicians are general practitioners, pharmacists are chemists, and urgent care centers are not that easy to come by.
We called the single pediatric urgent care center in the area – closed for leave. We called all the private doctors who populated our Google search – too close. The only option was the one I was hoping to avoid: the emergency room.
I am familiar with emergency rooms in the US. During my husband’s battle with brain cancer, we often visited him. There are a few constants – endless forms, long waits for tests, results and treatments, and expense.
WE ER. ended in
My daughter and I took a taxi to the emergency room, known in London as “accidents and emergencies” or A&E. The receptionist took our name, asked my daughter’s age, and wrote me her home address on a sheet of paper she had torn from a notebook.
After waiting a few minutes in a brightly colored room, we were brought to an examination room. A nurse asked us questions and examined my daughter. The doctor looked at a picture taken from my daughter’s inhaler that had the name of her medicine and how many doses were left when it stopped working.
By then his breathing had returned to normal. I knew this relief would be short-lived and the moment we returned to the dog, she would be wheezing again. I prepared myself for another debate with medical professionals. There was no argument. Even though he didn’t hear the wheezing, he believed in me and my daughter and agreed that he needed an inhaler.
He supervised her. At some point, a nurse brought him a chocolate Easter egg just in case he was hungry.
We ran out of handheld inhaler A&E after an hour. Only once we were standing on the sidewalk did I realize how different the experience was. There was no clipboard to accompany the forms, no unnecessary testing. He also gave her breakfast.
Every moment of our emergency-room visit was efficient, patient-friendly, and completely different from every other emergency-room experience I’ve had.
For the rest of the trip, my daughter used the inhaler as directed, avoided dogs as much as she could, and enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.