A pediatric ER visit that saved Cora’s chin

A pediatric ER visit that saved Cora’s chin

Meet Cora, a 5-year-old girl with a 5-year-old's curiosity. She loves dancing, singing, coloring and exploring new places, especially outside.

During the summer months, when she's not picking fruits and vegetables from her grandparents' garden, you're likely to find Cora splashing and swimming with her friends at the pool.

And that's exactly where Cora was one day this past summer, tagging along for her brother's end-of-the-season potluck with his YMCA swim team teammates, when a single slip turned what should have been a celebration into an emergency situation.

Attempting to push herself up and out the pool, Cora lost her grip and had her chin come crashing down against the hard cement edge of the pool.

Cora's father was accompanying her at the pool that day, and he contacted Cora's mother right away. Cora's mother works as a health care provider, and asked her husband to text her a picture of Cora's injury.

As they exchanged texts with increasing urgency, they realized they had some important decisions to make. "How bad is this? Can it wait? What do we do now?"

It's a positively dreaded moment for any parent to realize their child needs to see a doctor immediately, and Cora's parents are no different. Adding to their initial concern was the knowledge that while there's hardly an ideal time to need medical attention, there are some times that may feel more stressful than others.

And on this late summer Sunday evening, it quickly became apparent that Cora would need to visit the emergency room.

It turns out this was absolutely the right decision for Cora - not only did she have a deep laceration underneath her chin, but what no one knew at the time was that she had also cracked several teeth in half during her unfortunate pool exit, causing her enormous pain.

As a health care provider, Cora's mom knew that Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital has a Pediatric Emergency Room - but what she didn't know yet was just how much it mattered to bring Cora to an ER that focuses exclusively on kid-centric care.

For Cora and her parents, the benefits of choosing St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Room went beyond choosing the Richmond area's only emergency facility to have board-certified physicians who are Pediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) specialists on-site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It also meant that what can often be a frightening experience for children - and parents - was made much less so by the friendly staff, comfortable environment and immediate attention they encountered at St. Mary's.

Rather than entering a chaotic and sometimes scary situation, Cora was greeted by colorful butterflies, happily dancing along the waiting room wall from a ceiling-mounted projector.

As the nurses took her vital signs and prepared for her treatment, there were bubbles blowing all around in the room, while Cora was given a choice of children's movies to occupy her attention and ease her mind as she waited (she selected one of her favorites, Trolls).

The staff knew right away that Cora would need a numbing agent so they could repair her chin. Much to the delight of both Cora and her parents, they used a medicated gel, instead of a needle, and continuously communicated to Cora what they were doing and why, in a way that made it easy for her to understand.

It helped to make Cora feel calm and cared for, while having a similar impact on her parents' initial anxiety as well.

In the end, Cora required multiple layers of sutures, but she never complained - mostly because she is a brave little girl, but partly because she was watching Trolls through the entire ordeal.

Her doctor and nurses at St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Room even used dissolvable stitches, so her healing process was as easy and painless as possible.

For Cora and her parents, the whole experience proved to them that the team at St. Mary's Pediatric ER are truly experts at handling kids' emergencies as well as parents' concerns. What could have felt traumatic turned out to be something they probably never expected: almost entirely stress-free.

In fact, when Cora is asked about her visit to the emergency room today, she says, “It was really, really quite fun!” - and that’s thanks to the team at Richmond’s only dedicated pediatric emergency department, Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital.