Four-year-old Emerson Hudson thought the neighbor’s dog leaning over the fence was going to lick her face, but the dog had a darker intent.
“Once it jumped on me, all I saw was black,” as the dog bit her across her face, said Emerson, now 9. Her mother, Stacey, was at a loss where to send the ambulance, and so she asked the personnel.
“They said, ‘Children’s Hospital of Georgia,’ ” she said. ‘That’s what they do. They do children.’ ”
Stacey and Emerson were on hand Tuesday to help dedicate the newly renovated Emergency Department at the children’s hospital where Emerson was brought that day. What impressed Stacey then was not only the lack of a wait but the swiftness of the specialists who responded to her daughter’s facial wounds.
“The surgical response was immediate, and the fact that they had someone trained in reconstructive surgery was important to me as a parent,” she said.
The children’s hospital can summon the pediatric surgeon needed and also has the right kinds of supports, such as a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and a pediatric radiologist on call around the clock, that make the difference, said Dr. Charles Howell, the chief of pediatric surgery and co-medical director of the children’s hospital. Other places might do a CT scan of a child’s injury, “but there’s no one there to read it,” he said.
That pediatric training extends throughout the children’s Emergency Department, said Dr. Natalie Lane, the medical director of the department.
“We are well-trained,” she said. “We all have sub-specialty training in pediatric emergency medicine specifically. But I think the added benefit is we are here because we love children.”
While the department was expanded from 13 to 16 beds, its hours were also extended to be open 24 hours a day, which Howell appreciates when late cases show up.
“It’s great having them here at night, all night,” he said. “Because when a kid comes in, we have a good person to talk to, a person who really knows the pediatric service” and can advise the surgeon what kind of response is needed.
In Emerson’s case, she was treated so quickly that she was discharged within hours and didn’t have to spend a night in the children’s hospital, Stacey said.
“I was surprised, very surprised,’ she said.
Emerson got 30 stitches that day but it takes a close look to find evidence of them on her face: a thin white line blended into the freckles under the right eye, a faint white line under her nose and a small red mark under the left side of her mouth. They don’t seem to bother her a bit.
“I think I’m fine with them,” Emerson said. “Even if someone points out, ‘Ha ha, you have stitches on your face,’ I am going to say, ‘Bad luck for you, I am never removing them.’ ”