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  • When we were visiting friends in London, my daughter had an asthma attack due to allergies.
  • My friend helped me navigate the UK health system and we ended up going to the emergency room.
  • Our visit was very friendly and very efficient.

My daughter has allergic asthma. This meant that sometimes when she had allergens around, every breath was a sign of wheezing.

She has a rescue inhaler for these events. Taking two quick breaths, her breathing returned to normal.

Her inhaler broke shortly before we went to visit a friend in London. I asked the pediatrician for a new one. The paediatrician said if I wanted to add, I needed to take her to the office next time she gasped. I don’t want to wait for an episode. I said it wasn’t a supplement that I needed because the damaged inhaler still had a dose. Arguments are caught in useless circles.

We went to London without an inhaler. My daughter has had few asthma attacks in a given year and feels almost nonexistent.

Of course, this is not the case.

A friend we visited had a dog whose allergy medication was insufficient to control her symptoms. My daughter had an asthma attack caused by allergies in London on Easter Sunday.

I called her pediatrician in the US

My first step was to call my pediatrician in the US. I left a message with the answering service but never got a call back.

Our friends in London helped us understand the UK healthcare system, which initially seemed more complex than the US system. Doctors are general practitioners, pharmacists are chemists, and urgent care centers are not easy to find.

We called the single pediatric urgent care center in the area – closed for the holidays. We call all the personal doctors who fill up our Google searches – also closed. The only option I wish to avoid: the emergency room.

I am familiar with emergency rooms in the United States. During my husband’s battle with brain cancer, we visited them frequently. There are some constants – endless forms, long waits for tests, results and treatments, and fees.

we ended up in the emergency room

My daughter and I took a taxi to the emergency room, known in London as “Accidents and Emergencies” or A&E. The receptionist took our names, asked my daughter’s age, and asked me to write my home address on a piece of paper she tore from her notebook.

After a few minutes of waiting in a brightly colored room, we were taken to an examination room. A nurse asked us questions and checked on my daughter. The doctor looked at the pictures I took of my daughter’s inhaler with the name of her medication and how many doses were left when it stopped working.

At this point, her breathing has returned to normal. I know this reprieve is short-lived, and the moment we get back to the dog, she’ll gasp again. I’m ready for another argument with a medical professional. No arguments. Although they heard no gasps, they believed my daughter and I and agreed that she needed an inhaler.

They were watching her. At some point, a nurse brought her a chocolate Easter egg in case she was hungry.

An hour later, we walked out of the emergency room with inhalers. It was only when we were standing on the sidewalk that I realized how different the experience was. No clipboards full of tables, no unnecessary tests. They even gave her refreshments.

Every moment of our ER visit was efficient, patient friendly, and unlike any other ER experience I’ve had.

For the rest of the trip, my daughter used the inhaler as instructed, avoided the dogs as much as possible, and enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.

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