Learn first aid to save money and avoid trauma

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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5 thoughts on “Learn first aid to save money and avoid trauma

  1. Kacie

    We took infant CPR and first aid when i was pregnant with johnny. I kicked myself in the head when I found out our health insurance would cover it 100%! Too late for me, but look into it in case your insurance covers part of it, or at least if you can pay for it with FSA funds.

    1. Karen

      I will look into that! We took infant first aid and CPR when I was pregnant, too. It was a free class sponsored by the health department. But the first aid wasn’t very extensive. It really just covered CPR, choking, and some pretty obvious safety stuff (keep your baby away from hot stuff, sharp stuff, and poisonous stuff — DUH). I’d like to take a more extensive class and learn some real first aid techniques. Not sure if it exists, but I’m gonna find out!

  2. Andrea

    This is a great article. One of the many, many reasons that we have such a messed up healthcare system is that people tend to run to the doctor or ER with every little sniffle or scrape. Even if your insurance covers most or all of the cost, that still ultimately affects the cost of healthcare and insurance for everyone. Another great resource when you’re not sure if a visit is warranted is to use your insurance company’s or doctor office’s nurseline, if one is available. These nurses are trained at performing triage over the phone and recommending self care options, if appropriate.

  3. Verna

    Great article! I’m was in the medical field before my son was born so I know CPR, and have some knowledge on basic first aid. It’s always handy to have medical knowledge of any kind! My husband tore his achilles tendon before Thanksgiving last year. Having experience in the medical field I knew he wouldn’t be getting surgery over the weekend and saved us an ER bill. (He wasn’t in any pain.)

  4. M

    Good idea on the first aid course. But not all ERs are scary. Some are very good. If you live in an area where there is a choice of hospitals, you could familiarize yourself with each of the E-Rs. I live in an urban area where there are at least 10 hospitals close by. I know there is one that I prefer over the other. We also have an E-R that advertises on a billboard outside the E-R how long the wait is. There are also E-Rs that are better at dealing with kids than adults.

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