Playing Doctor: Overcoming My Fear of Administering Emergency Treatment To My Daughter

My hands where shaking as I clawed at the clear plastic baggy that held my daughter’s emergency injection of solu-cortef. My luck the ex had wrapped it in masking tape making the damn thing impossible to open.

Finally, with my teeth, I ripped a hole in one end and managed to shake its contents on the bed. Trying to recount the steps the male nurse at the hospital taught me years ago, I quickly mixed the powder with the liquid, assembled the syringe, and drew the concoction with the long, thin needle. I felt like my heart was going to fly through my chest when I swiped the alcohol pad over Savannah’s thigh, stuck the needle in and slowly depressed.

When I finally withdrew the syringe, I did a double take. Did I really administer the solution?

I then called 911 and broke down and cried.

This movie-scene moment that erupted in my apartment last Tuesday morning, while I like to say was a fluke, can happen anytime and any place.

My daughter Savannah was born with a rare endocrine condition that when her body is stressed, typically because of illness, she can have what is called an adrenal crisis. Her vitals plummet, and if not immediately treated with solu-cortef she’s at risk of shock, seizures, coma and at the extreme death.

One doctor described it best: The body is like a car and cortisol is like gas. In the way a car needs more gas when you drive fast, the body needs more cortisol when fighting an illness, and Savannah unfortunately makes none, which necessitates the emergency solu-cortef.

Years ago when the solu-cortef was presented to me, I was dismissive. “I’m not a doctor,” I thought. “Who am I to administer life or death medical care?”

Two life-threatening incidents later, strung together by a series of medical errors, pried me from my comfort spot.

The first occurred in a cab while racing through the streets of New York to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment. As I barked directions to the cabbie, Savannah began to seizure in the backseat.  I believe I threw the cabbie a $10 tip.

About a year later Savannah had an adrenal crises on a plane turning me into the annoying passenger who pushes the emergency button and disrupts the flight. The two doctors and veterinarian who jumped to her side, like most medical professionals I’ve encountered, had only textbook knowledge of her condition. They killed valuable time asking superfluous questions as I pleaded with them to administer the injection. Now!

“I think you need to push down on the yellow top and mix the powder with the liquid,” I heard the surgeon say over the neurologist’s shoulder.

“When was she diagnosed?” the neurologist asked as he eyed the contents of the clear plastic baggy.

It finally occurred to me that these Three Stooges, lacking knowledge and fearful of a lawsuit, were more afraid of the baggy and its contents than I. Sure, Savannah has a medical alert bracelet. But how can they be certain I, some random woman on a plane, isn’t a kook who suffers from Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome? And when was the last time the neurologist actually gave a shot?

“You should have gone with the vet,” my sister-in-law quipped when I shared the story. “They always give shots.”

True.

The real lesson, however, was my daughter’s care is ultimately in my lands. Literally. I have to be able to decipher the signs of an adrenal crisis and be willing to push my fears aside so if necessary administer the emergency injection. Now.

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