Make sure you know where your closest medical facility is, and other lessons learned.

So, our first family camping trip was cut a bit short. No, it was nothing to do with the broken collarbone that my three year old got the day before we left, from roughhousing with dad. (Yes, we decided to go anyway, ‘cause we thought it would be a good distraction for him.) As we had to do slightly less physical activity than we had planned, (i.e. more museums, less swimming and hiking), we ventured to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on day two of our camping trip. It took about 45 minutes to get there. We’ve been before, and we all LOVE it! It’s the best aquarium I’ve ever been to. There are giant whales hanging from the ceiling and it’s located right on the ocean. The exhibits are huge. The staff are super knowledgeable. It’s just a brilliant place!  

Anemones at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Anemones at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Can you find Nemo?

Everything was going swimmingly until lunch time. Both of my boys had slight colds and boogers, but then again, they usually do. After lunch my older son (the one with the broken collarbone) started having trouble breathing. He was tired, and just wanted to sit in the stroller (not typical for a kid who spends his days running circles around me). We let him nap, but when he woke up, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t well. Nurse Granny Sue was with us, who was equally concerned, so we left the Aquarium, and headed to the closest hospital. We have Kaiser insurance, but there wasn’t a Kaiser Hospital nearby.

The key thing about Kaiser Insurance, is that you always have to be seen at a Kaiser facility (unless you have a serious medical condition which requires you to be referred to a specialist). The BIG exception to this, and this is for all health insurance providers, is if you need emergency care – in which case, you go to whichever hospital is closest, and you will be treated. You may have to pay a copay/deductible amount, or you may be billed for the whole thing, and then reimbursed by your insurance company. It’s a tricky process, and I certainly can’t explain all the details of the payment process here, but know that if you need emergency care – step 1 is always to go to the closest hospital.

Happy guy after an overnight stay in the ER

Happy guy after a little adventure in the ER!

So, off we went to the Watsonville Community Hospital. Thank goodness that my son is fascinated with being a nurse or doctor at the moment. He was far more interested in checking out their stethoscopes and x-ray machine, than getting worked up about what they were doing to him. He was a champ, and after a few breathing treatments, he was back to his chatty little self. While I stayed overnight with him, the rest of the group went back to the campsite to pack up. We headed home, and followed up with his normal pediatrician the next day.

Lesson learned though. Whenever and wherever you travel, especially with kids, it’s always a good idea to know where your closest medical facility is. Even our doctor said that this is why he keeps going back to Maui – because he knows exactly where the two Kaisers are located on the island!

Top tips for getting medical care away from home:

  1. 9-1-1  Is the number you call for emergency services anywhere in the USA. Make a mental note of this, as it may not be the same as in your home country.
  2. Always have your medical record number with you, and the numbers for the rest of your family too.
  3. Know the names of any prescription drugs that you or your family are taking.
  4. Save a few phone numbers in your phone, like the numbers for the advice line, members’ services etc.
  5. Keep a basic first aid kit in your car.
  6. Fill in the Emergency/Medical ID feature of your phone.
Leaving the hospital

One of us looks a lot better than the night before, the other one, not so much!

I’m not a light packer, never have been, never will be. My friends joke, but when the unexpected happens, I’m 
usually prepared. So when we ended up in the ER for the night. I grabbed my emergency backpack from the car. I always carry a change of clothes (for me and the kids), extra diapers, toothbrush, shampoo etc. with me, just in case…It made the stay a little more manageable having a few creature comforts. We also carry a spare phone charger with us, which was essential!  

Extra Tip: 

Even if your kid is potty trained, when they are sick, stuck in bed, and connected to an IV and monitor, having some diapers is essential. You’d think that the hospital would have some, but they only had small sizes for babies. Remember, we were out in Watsonville. I’m pretty sure having a pediatric patient overnight was not a usual occurrence for them…


How do you plan for emergencies when travelling?

About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me ( I am happy to help!

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