So many things were whirring around my brain and my anxiety was high, and this was before Charlie was even sick!
Although I had private healthcare insurance throughout my pregnancy here in Madrid and gave birth in a private hospital (read all about that here!), we had decided we were very happy with the Social Security healthcare here and let my private insurance expire a few months after Charlie was born and register him directly with our local Centro Salud. He was 6 days old at his first visit (which was just to register him, and collect a prescription for Vitamin D droplets). His new paediatrician was lovely, but very chilled out! It wasn’t her first newborn! She also didn’t speak any English, so my husband was being translator for me, finding out what we do in an emergency and where to go/who to call. This was another wake up call for me that we were doing this in a foreign country with no family around us for support! This was possibly the start of what I now realise was post-natal anxiety. Or maybe it wasn’t the start, maybe it was just another outlet for it….
Anyway, overall we were very lucky and Charlie was a very robust newborn. Then when he was about four and a half months, Spain went into an extremely strict Covid lock-down, so he wasn’t going outside or interacting with anyone that weren’t his parents so there was not much he could get sick with! For some bizarre reason, in September 2020 when he started guardaria at 11 months old, he got nothing more than a snotty nose. I was relieved as I was told they’re in and out of the doctors surgery for the first few months of starting daycare!
However, September 2021 and the return to guardaria after the summer was a different story. He seemed to have saved up all his typical childhood illnesses for now! Which I am thankful for as I have worked through my postpartum anxiety, he is a robust walking sort of talking toddler and no longer a breakable and scary baby! But, that first trip to Urgencias is still some sort of hell that every parent must go through so here is how it went down for us and I hope it helps you when you have to do yours!
It was actually a weekend, which is why Urgencias was our first port of call as opposed to our centro salad. He’d woken up from his nap and was having his snack and I could see his ribcage was working excessively hard for him to breath, plus he was wheezing. I have a fabulous WhatsApp support group of local women and asked them how it all works…they sprung into action, told me which entrance to use of the hospital and step by step what to do. I’ve always hated having to go anywhere I don’t know so this was a real comfort. We went to the Urgencias entrance of our local public hospital and registered Charlie’s case at the main reception and then we were directed to the peadiatric waiting room. We didn’t have to wait long at all to be called in for the initial assessment. Due to Covid, only one parent was allowed in with him at this point and we decided it should be my husband due to his level of Spanish. Cue a highly worried and quite long wait for me! Turns out if it’s a young child or baby with any breathing difficulties they go straight through to the main part of paediatric Urgencias instead of back out to the main waiting room. Which is fantastic but also worrying for me because I got one WhatsApp from my husband saying “We’re going straight through to the other room” and that was it!!
Finally, after what seemed hours (only one) they came back. After a lot of tests and observation Charlie didn’t need anything. The doctor had done a mucus/nasal wash and that had helped enough for them to feel happy to send him home. Apparently, my husband had apologised to the doctor for wasting their time and she had replied “we rather you come in and it’s nothing 100 times than you not to come in and he’s very sick” so that was really comforting to hear.
Of course, since that day, and within the space of 3 months we have been back to Urgencias twice more!! Both times on the advice of Charlie’s guardaria nurse who called me due to fever and wheezing. Each time his symptoms has been progressively worse and he was given medication at urgencies. The final time, he was actually diagnosed with bronchiolitis and was given an inhaler to take at home. This time I was there alone but as it is a university hospital, many of the junior doctor who were observing the consultants spoke excellent English and we were able to all understand each other through Spanglish! The nurses and doctors were extremely patient with my level and made sure I understood everything before I left. The most recent time, they wanted him seen by his own pediatrician the next day, which I thought would be stressful to organise, but I could actually book him an appointment at the Centro Salud online and they tested his blood oxygen levels again and monitored his breathing and confirmed he needed to continue with the inhaler for a few more days.
The system here is really reassuring and we felt cared for throughout the whole season of respiratory issues! Thankfully, since the end of November, he has been full of health and energy and not needed to see the doctor, for which I am very grateful!
How was your first trip to A&E/Emergency Room/Urgencias with your little one? I’d love to hear from you whether it was overall a positive experience (apart from your precious bundle being poorly) overall or anything you wish you could have changed?