My first day alone with the two children, and we ended up going to the emergency room before we'd even reached lunchtime. While I was attending Baby Maggie, my two-year-old, Max, got into his father's backpack and swallowed an unknown amount of hand-sanitizer. He ran into me crying, holding the half empty bottle trying to get it out of his mouth.
The hardest part about being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, is dealing with emergencies,
My first reaction was to PANIC and run aimlessly around the apartment half-crazed, while trying to peel back the label for the promised "additional drug facts." After the 30 seconds which felt like forever it took me to peel back the label I read "Keep out of the reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center immediately."
My reaction more PANIC and more running aimlessly around the apartment half-crazed. I didn't know the phone number to a German poison control, nor can I speak German to someone on the phone. Not being able to use body language makes it almost impossible to communicate even with people who understand English pretty well.
My brain addled by the PANIC I was still feeling, I called my husband. He told me to call the ambulance, which was a pretty appropriate response to the amount of PANIC I was conveying over the phone, though not appropriate to the situation. Max was showing no signs or symptoms of being poisoned and was immensely enjoying chasing his wild eyed mother around the apartment.
The PANIC and running aimlessly around the house half-crazed briefly paused, and I told Paul I was going to call the pediatrician. This led to more PANIC and more running aimlessly around the apartment half-crazed in a wild search for my wallet which has the pediatrician's card on it, because when I am in PANIC mode, my brain can't compute the obvious. The wallet was in my bag where it belongs.
I tried calling, but after ringing a couple times, I got a strange message in German, and elevator music which is not at all soothing while PANICKING and running aimlessly around the apartment half-crazed because your two-year-old just swallowed an unknown amount of hand sanitizer. I hung up and dialed again, and got the same result. More PANIC, more running around aimlessly. I called Paul back and was met by a busy signal. More PANIC, more running around aimlessly.
Not sure what to do, I attempted the pediatrician again, at which point Paul showed up on call waiting. I told him I couldn't get through to the pediatrician, and he sensibly asked me if the pediatrician was open. I retorted, "Of course, the pediatrician is open." He suggested going straight to the pediatrician's office instead of calling.
My addled brain responded with, "THAT ISN'T EXACTLY EASY WITH TWO KIDS," no car, a stroller in the basement bike-room, and at least 30 minute door-to-door commute if I catch the bus at the exactly right moment.
His response, "That isn't the point, is it?"
My response, "Sometimes I hate you for bringing me here where I feel so helpless," which was really my way of saying, "I hate that you are being reasonable, while I am PANICING and running around the apartment aimlessly half-crazed." So I hung up and accidentally turned the phone off, which meant more PANIC and more running around aimlessly because I had to search in our file cabinet for the stupid pin number to turn the phone back on, because I can never remember it. Who puts stupid pin numbers on cell phone anyways?
After more PANIC and more running around aimlessly, I found the pediatrician's card that I had set down in the bathroom during a previous episode of PANIC and running around aimlessly. I looked at the back and realized that the pediatrician’s office was about to close for lunch and wouldn't be open again for another three-and-a-half hours, enough time for the hand-sanitizer to take effect, and my child would no longer be laughing while chasing his wild eyed mother around the apartment.
I called Paul back, and told him that I had to go to the emergency room. Still the voice of calm and reason, he told me he would call a Taxi when I was ready. So after I retrieved the baby's car seat from the attic and put shoes on Max and me, I made sure I had my wallet with health insurance cards, when I realized that I didn't have any cash. More PANIC and more running around aimlessly, I called Paul and told him I didn't have any cash to take a taxi. Still calm and reasonable, he told me to ask the Taxi to take me to a bank.
Once I was in the taxi, the PANIC and aimless running around subsided, because I now had a sense of direction, but mostly because I was restrained by the seat-belt. Max was sitting in the taxi's car seat happily babbling away about taxis and autos. We got to the children's hospital, and we were almost immediately triaged in to see a doctor. This was disappointing to Max who was having fun riding the carousel in the waiting room.
After the doctor contacted a Berlin Poison Institute about Max's choice of poison, she informed me that the amount missing from the 1oz bottle wasn't enough to do any harm. She still did a full examination of him to make sure that he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms of poisoning, and with a reassuring smile she told me that every child this age swallows something like this.