THE “D” WORD
DEALING WITH THE HOSPITAL (PART II)
A planned trip to the hospital with your child is probably less traumatic than entering through the emergency room, but your child being hospitalized in any way ranks right up there as a major stress.
A friend of mine assures me that a proactive patient is the best kind. When my daughter was in the hospital, I considered her actively working to get better. I saw my job as assisting her in whatever way I possibly could.
I wasn't there to see that she was a model patient, but that she got well.
I assisted her by asking questions and learning as much as I could about what was done and why it was being done. For instance, a couple of tests they needed to do entailed laying her flat on her back. Now, if you've just had your middle sliced open, stretching flat is very painful. Could these two tests be done at the same time? Yes. That way she was laying flat less often.
I also find it very helpful when something goes wrong, to not deal in blame but to try to find a way to fix it. Once, when my daughter was in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit - you'll learn all sorts of hospital lingo) she had a reaction to a drug that she received. The nurse had noticed it and then she disappeared. I sat with my daughter as she described it as "burning under her skin". She was tracking the burning feeling from her arm through her body.
Sure enough, a rash was appearing starting from the IV. She was miserable. I went to find the nurse. She was the only nurse that I saw on duty in a huge intensive care. Scary, isn't it?
Anyway, I tracked down the nurse and she got a doctor to come give my daughter an antidote right away. Within minutes my daughter was comfortable again, if comfortable is a word you can use in a PICU.
The nurse admitted that she may have caused the reaction by adding the last two doses of the medicine together and hurrying them through the IV before she went off shift. The important thing to me was that something was done about it quickly.
A few days later, I asked our doctor for the name of the drug that caused the allergic reaction. I wanted to know so that we could avoid it in the future. He seemed surprised because he hadn't been told about this.
The intern accompanying him on his rounds looked at my daughter's chart and said she just had "a slight rash." After they left the room, my daughter wished him "a slight rash" and a few other things. I encourage this kind of dark humor. It helps deal with the anger of being in such a vulnerable and demeaning situation.
In situations where my daughter takes power, I applaud her. Once, when I was not in the room, the phlebotomist came by for a blood sample. She told him he had to come back when I was there. He did exactly that.
For many years, we had a routine for blood tests. I held her free hand, and the phlebotomist was asked to count aloud: one, two, three, and then stick her. When it was at our local lab, it meant a trip to the gum machine in the hall as we left. I always had a coin ready.
Routines are helpful. It sets the parameters of the event and gives some power to the child in dictating how it will happen. Let's face it, who wants to get a blood test. She also knew that she could complain, cry or, more her style, make faces, but she couldn't move her arm. If she moved her arm, it may have meant they would have to try again, and stick her twice. A very compelling reason to stay still.
Setting up routines such as this one for the blood test can be helpful because if a hospital visit comes up, you can fall back on something familiar to your child.
While in the hospital, visitors can be nice or they can be a burden depending on how well your child is doing. Remember, your child is there to get well. Sometimes all their energy is needed for this task and they don't even want to say hello.
On the other hand, sometimes a visit can cheer them up. Let people know what works for you. Check with your child to see if s/he wants friends to come. When my daughter was feeling better, visitors were very welcome.
In fact, one friend brought his Nintendo game cartridges to loan her. Everyone knows I am useless when it comes to a joy stick and hitting little blip blips on a screen. She was happy to have someone play with her while her friend's mom and I slipped out for a coffee break.
If you need quiet, you can close the door and put a "Do not disturb" sign on it. You can ask to have the phone ring at the desk instead of in the room which you can also do if you leave the room for a while.
Most hospitals will accommodate a parent staying overnight with the child. They will provide a bed of nails. Sorry, that's what it felt like but I was very grateful anyway.
Often when you come in, you will be given a quick tour of where the clean sheets, pillow cases, and extra blankets or pillows are stored. Usually there is a little kitchen area with a refrigerator that may have juice and popsicles for your child, and in which you can keep things. Also, there is usualy a shower for parents staying overnight. If you didn't get the tour, don't be afraid to ask about these things.
I was so impressed with many of the parents I met and the ways they found to handle the crisis of a hospitalized child. One baby in intensive care for a lengthy period had mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa taking shifts so that someone was with her at all times. One mom had the younger sibling there too and was entertaining both youngsters until dad got off work. Another couple was staying at the Ronald McDonald house at night, and the father was driving to work and back, an hour and a half each way every day.
There are so many things to deal with in the hospital. Sometimes the small, thoughtful help you get makes all the difference in the world to your peace of mind. My daughter's first emergency hospitalization was out of town. Her dad, back home, was frantic. He raced to the airport but got caught in rush hour traffic and missed the plane. He called us at the hospital and the nurse found a phone to plug in next to my daughter's bed in the intensive care unit so she could say "Hi" to her dad. It meant so much to him to hear her voice.
I figure that one can always find something about which to be angry or something for which to be grateful. The choice is ours. I wish grace as well as the best of health to you and your child.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber