No matter which hospital you visit, expect to wait. Most ERs operate on a triage system, treating the sickest or most badly injured patients first. But there are limits. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Schwartz says. “If you’re waiting too long, start bothering people.”
Also, be prepared to stand firm. While it is common for doctors to discuss treatment with parents and get their approval, a physician may request procedures you don’t want. Don Wallace, a New York novelist, found himself insisting to ER doctors that his infant son, Rory, did not need a spinal tap after an inconclusive blood test. Eventually, the doctor admitted that his staff had bungled Rory’s blood results and said the tap was optional. “You must be able to make tough decisions,” Wallace says. “Ultimately, you’re the one in charge.” And that’s true whether you’re talking in the ER or into the phone receiver.