By: Jen Russon
To ask Dr. Nirit Swerdloff what a day in the pediatric ER is like is to understand both the joy and sorrow of delivering healthcare to the youngest and most vulnerable among us.
As an assistant medical director at Broward Health Coral Springs, Swerdloff has been on call for drowning deaths, third-degree burns, and ingestion of batteries, subsequently removed by pediatric surgeons at her Level 2 facility.
But it’s treating patients in a state that ranks first in drowning deaths of children aged 1- 4 that resonate most deeply with this physician.
“Every summer, I do a mental rain dance before my shift. Drowning cases are truly my PTSD,” said Swerdloff. “It happens more than you think.”
In April, Swerdloff’s safety lecture covered CPR knowledge, fences, and alarms around pools; simple things parents can do, like swim lessons, that often mean the difference between life and death.
The lecture touched on childproofing the entire home, warning about the seemingly innocuous danger of transferring a liquid household cleaner to an unmarked water bottle.
Some prevention tips were even less noticeable. For example, parents should not give ipecac or induce vomiting following a child’s ingestion of a toxin.
Instead, pediatricians say the best thing a parent can do is facilitate emergency care just as soon as they can dial Poison Control or 911. Swerdloff also emphasized coming to the ER, even if the parent’s concerns seem silly or overblown.
“Better safe than sorry. No matter how strange the concern, I am trained to find a treatment solution if necessary. We are always glad to see parents come in, be proactive,” she said.
She advises that even if the parent is sure a piece of loose change will come out in the child’s diaper, it’s best to come in, especially after seeing she’s seen the esophageal damage a coin or a hair barrette can do.
Swerdloff has seen many odd cases since her career began at Jackson Memorial decades ago, from children making contact with fuzzy caterpillars to eating potentially harmful flowers, seeds, and plants.
“Accidents do happen, but at the crux of what we do, prevention and education decrease the likelihood of serious injury,” said Swerdloff.
She added the real joy and beauty of the emergency medical team she works with is their training and expertise in pediatrics.
“Really, I’m treating two patients at the same time: the parent and the child.”
Swerdloff advocates children age 16 and up to get the COVID-19 vaccine and welcome parents’ questions and concerns. A member of the American Board of Pediatrics, Swerdloff knows the difference between a dedicated pediatric ER and the child-friendly one she is part of at Broward Health Coral Springs.
The difference is, her hospital offers highly specialized care and extraordinary bedside manner, not easily found in other hospitals.
“I can examine the patient while he or she is sitting in the parent’s lap. I’ve been specifically trained to treat a child of any age, and so are each member of my team,” said Swerdloff.
Broward Health Coral Springs is the only Children’s Hospital ER in west Broward, trained to minimize radiation exposure in diagnostic testing, lab draws, and IVs.
“We do see a lot of our patients more than once and love to treat the child at every developmental stage. We may not be able to stop brain cancer or leukemia, but with regular care, we can prevent so much more,” said Swerdloff.
To explore the many pediatric services provided by The Salah Foundation Children’s Hospitals at Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health Coral Springs, click here, or visit Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center for primary care, dental and social services.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at Swallow Publishing, LLC.