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Learn first aid to save money and avoid trauma

by Karen on May 16, 2011

Let me start this by saying I would never condone risking the health of yourself or anyone in your family to save money, no matter what the cost. My family’s health is our top priority, and we will spend whatever is necessary to keep all of us well.

That said, emergency room visits are outrageous. Even with good insurance, our copay is $200 for an ER visit. If we were uninsured or paying 100% out of pocket until we hit our deductible, a single trip to the ER for something simple could easily cost over $1000. Not to mention, you’ll often sit in the waiting room for hours. Before spending that kind of time and money, you need to know that the injury really does warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Last Friday while packing some glasses, Tony accidentally broke a glass in his hand, and it cut him. It was deeper than the average “put a Bandaid on it” cut, but it didn’t look deep enough to require stitches. Again, if I really thought he was seriously injured, I wouldn’t have questioned taking him to the hospital. But we just didn’t know.

Judah was already in bed, and we were in the middle of packing and moving. The last thing either one of us wanted was to sit in an ER for hours for him to be bandaged up and sent home.

Both of our moms are nurses, so I put a call in to each of them. The consensus seemed to be that based on where the cut was on his hand and the fact that it wasn’t terribly deep, he would probably be okay with some butterfly bandages.

I’d never done anything like this, and I was incredibly nervous. The last thing I wanted to do was screw it up. My husband is better at this sort of thing than me, but he couldn’t do it one handed, so it had to be me. We put pressure on it with a clean towel, and he sat with his hand elevated for about 30 minutes to stop the bleeding. We cleaned it well, applied the butterfly bandages, and put Bandaids over it to keep it clean.

I think the bandages could have been applied better by someone with more experience, but it seemed to be good enough, because a week later it’s healing well. He will probably have a scar, because I didn’t get the butterfly bandages quite tight enough. But because of where it is on his hand, it won’t be easily visibly.

Would they have given him stitches? Maybe. Now that it’s healed, it looks a bit deeper than we thought. But it seems that in most cases, the only reason a clean cut with no jagged edges or increased risk of infection would need stitches is to stop bleeding or minimize scarring. If you can get the bleeding to stop and it’s not in a place where a scar would be noticeable, a butterfly bandage will fix the problem most of the time. If you’re skilled at applying butterfly bandages, scarring can sometimes even be reduced with a butterfly bandage because there are no jagged Frankenstein lines from the stitches.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I need to take a first aid class. Part of our problem is that we were clueless. We could tell the wound wasn’t too bad, but we still weren’t sure if stitches were necessary. I can see how that doubt and fear would be even greater if the wound had been on our young son.

I’m sure we’ll encounter many bumps and cuts as Judah gets older. I want to know more about first aid not only so I can know whether professional medical care is required, but so I can provide him with basic first aid instead of rushing to the ER for every little thing.

When I was a kid, my dad was excellent at patching us up. He was an expert butterfly bandager. When I was 7, I busted my chin on the side of a dresser when he was out of town on a business trip. He later said he probably wouldn’t have bandaged it himself, because the chin is such a tough place to heal without stitches. My mom rushed me to the ER. We waited forever, and I was panicked and scared after my sister jokingly told me they were going to stitch me up under a sewing machine. She was trying to make a joke, but I took it literally, and I was terrified.

I think in most cases, getting first aid treatment from a parent at home is less traumatic and scary for a kid than a visit to the hospital. If I can learn to provide that basic care for Judah myself, we can avoid putting him through a traumatic ER visit unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Learning first aid can also prepare you to provide first treatment for serious issues that require professional medical care. Driving to the hospital or waiting for an ambulance takes time, and it’s important to be able to take the right steps immediately after an injury.

I’m looking into first aid classes now. Even if we pay a good chunk of change to learn these skills, I think it’s valuable beyond the money we’ll save in ER visits.

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