Car-free parenting: Emergency room adventures

At 2 AM Saturday morning, Chicklet woke up with a fever of over 104. After calling our insurance hotline and talking with an on-call nurse and doctor, we decided to take her to the emergency room. Even if the bus had been running at that hour, walking and waiting were out of the question (for me, anyway–Nerd was down), and there were no Zipcars available in our neighborhood. So, we settled for option three–a cab–and were sitting in the Swedish ER within 15 minutes of the call.*

Fortunately, Chicklet was not seriously ill. She had case of strep throat, from which she has recovered quite quickly. And have I mentioned how grateful I am to have insurance and access to quality medical care? I digress.

The prospect of emergency-illness situations like this was one of the few issues that gave me pause when planning for car-free parenthood. Nerd and I both knew that we’d remain car-free when we had kids and that we’d do whatever was necessary to make it work,** but from the beginning, I’ve felt anxiety about how we would handle the inevitable medical emergencies that seem to arise with small children.

I realize that this is an irrational fear. After all, we’ve chosen to live in a dense(ish), urban neighborhood that gives us easy access to both regular and emergency care. Our home is a block from Chicklet’s pediatrician and within a couple of miles of four hospitals. We also have multiple travel options (Zipcars, cabs, or ambulances, depending on the circumstances) for situations when her pediatrician’s office is closed and a bus is not available or practical. Still, there’s something about not feeling in control and about having to figure out how to get somewhere in a moment of crisis, that doesn’t–or, at least, didn’t–sit well with me.

Now that we have a few Chicklet ER trips under our belt (one by bus, one by Zipcar, and this latest, by cab), I feel more at ease. In every case, we were sitting in the waiting room within 30 minutes of our decision to go, which is faster than most car-owning suburban parents–many of whom live long drives from hospitals–can make it. In fact, if all else failed, we could probably walk to a hospital faster than a large percentage of Americans could drive to one. Shoot, if my parent-protective-fear-adrenaline instinct was activated, I’d run.

*It was actually a good trial run for labor (assuming that ever happens), which will also probably involve a cab ride.

**So far, we haven’t changed much–in terms of our transportation and living situation, at least. We still live in the same–though much more crowded–home, still rent Zipcars about as frequently, and still ride the same routes. About the only thing that’s changed is that we walk in our neighborhood (mostly headed to parks) even more than we did before.

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