When you become a parent, you activate a stringy glob of fears embedded in the genetic code.  The what-ifs keep me up at night more often than my strapped sleep budget can really afford.  And every life decision you make as a parent trips over those anxieties.

Going car-free was no exception.

What if he gets hurt and we have to take him to the hospital?  What if he gets sick at school and we have to meet him at the hospital?  What if…well, mostly just more worries about going to the hospital.

A friend sent me this post written by a mom with the same fears, except they have come true for her kid: “Car-free parenting: Emergency room adventures” written by a woman in Seattle.  In it she describes three separate E-room trips made without a personal car.

Even though we’d talked through the various scenarios before making our decision and realized our fears were based on illogical fears, not practical considerations, it was still a relief to read about the experiences of someone who’d been through it:

At 2 AM Saturday morning, Chicklet woke up with a fever of over 104. After calling our insurance hotline and talking with an on-call nurse and doctor, we decided to take her to the emergency room. Even if the bus had been running at that hour, walking and waiting were out of the question (for me, anyway–Nerd was down), and there were no Zipcars available in our neighborhood. So, we settled for option three–a cab–and were sitting in the Swedish ER within 15 minutes of the call.

Like us, Bus Chick and her family live with a few miles of several hospitals and a few blocks from her pediatrician.  Like us, she can probably get to medical care faster than most folks living in the exurbs with multiple cars. And like us, she was scared anyway, because she’s a mom.

You know what though?  Most the best things I’ve done in my life have been incredibly frightening when I was first getting started.  Running cross-country in high school, moving to Colombia for a year, getting re-married, having a kid, biking to work for the first time – all very scary for this slightly neurotic writer.    But all very good things – all utterly necessary for my happiness and wellbeing, at least in hindsight.

For our worried parents (and ourselves as worried parents), here’s our health/emergency plan, set down in hopes of never having to use it:

1. Slightly ill – a 1. 5 mile bus ride on the 71 Cascade west to Kaiser.

2. Emergency room – call Cascade Jack, our neighborhood cabbie.

3. True emergency – call 911. This one should have been a d’oh – who tries to put their kid into a carseat and drive to the hospital if they are truly injured?  No one!  You call 911 and do what you can while you wait a few minutes for trained EMTs to arrive, right? And as Josh has pointed out, luckily we live in a crime-ridden neighborhood and the ambulance is generally parked at the Kroger or Dunkin Donuts 1 mile from our house (yes, he’s always this reassuring).

I hate thinking about this.

We ordered a Sunshine Kids Radian folding car seat and a carrying backpack, available separately, for cabs, zipcars, or friend rides.  The folding angle is for maximum portability if the trip includes MARTA.  I may have outsmarted myself with this one – the thing is heavy as the dickens.  It is steel though, and an Atlanta woman noted it survived with nary a scratch the recent parking deck collapse near Georgia Tech, although the rest of her car had caved in.  Pretty good recommendation.  The old car seat goes to my folks in case they want to pick us up at MARTA.

So there we have it  – what to do if the what ifs strike.