As many of you know, Lyra was in the hospital again for a few days last week. She had an infection and became dehydrated. Because she is a complex case, it required closer monitoring than an average child. She was home two days later and it doing great. During my stay I ran into a mom in the elevator. I have no idea why she was there. It really doesn’t matter. It’s never a good thing. She was obviously stressed, upset, and worn down. She mentioned that it was the first time her son was in the hospital and I could tell she felt overwhelmed. While I wasn’t able to say much to make that mother feel better, I figured I would pass along what I have learned.
How to Survive Your Child’s Hospital Stay:
- Take a deep breath: Panicking will only make the situation harder/scarier for your child. I used to view hospitals as scary horrible places. Going into one nearly gave me a panic attack every time (even though it was never because I was sick). Oh how my views have changed. When my baby is hurt or sick, I now view the hospital as a safe place where we find solutions.
- GO HOME!!!!!: This may sound CRAZY to many people, but trust me. If you are going to have a child in the hospital for any length of time, you need to take breaks and GO HOME. When Lyra was in the NICU at Children’s National, nurses used to “yell” at me all the time to go home and get some sleep. I get it now. By going home you are NOT neglecting your child. You are recharging. Since Lyra is older, Mark and I trade nights there. No one really sleeps in the hospital (Lyra included), so this allows us to always have one adult who is fully functional taking care of her. And, if you can’t have someone else stay there, let the nurse know. Night nurses will make sure to keep a special eye on your child if you can’t be there. I know that Lyra has been passed around and held when we couldn’t be there.
- Get to know your nurses: Nurses are amazing people and your biggest ally in the hospital. They are your teammates and they care about your child. If your kid has a rough day, they take it home. Trust me, I have been told by nurses. Nurses will help you take care of your child beyond administering meds. For example, Lyra is a terrible sleeper, especially in the hospital. At night, the nurses will frequently rotate with whomever is staying with her. They will rock her and hold her and try to put her back to sleep so we can get a small amount of rest. Now, if you happen to not like your nurse, it is totally okay to request a new one. Not everyone clicks. It’s okay.
- Ask questions: No one is going to think you are stupid for not understanding something. Sometimes the medical professionals get so wrapped up in their conversation they forget there is someone in the room who is not familiar with the terms. It is okay to remind them that you need an explanation in normal people terms. Many doctors are happy to explain and even draw pictures. While their picture of often about as legible as their signatures, it’s the effort that counts.
- Know where the refreshments are: I am not talking about the cafes and cafeterias. Every wing that I have been in has an area with a fridge, water cooler, and coffee (at the very least). Make sure you are keeping hydrated and for the love of god eat something. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a code go over the speaker system because a parent fainted. If you are on the floor, you can’t take care of your child.
- Accept the help that is offered: You would be amazed who comes out of the woodwork. Don’t be too proud to accept food, a change of cloths, or the offer to take your dog until your child is home. I am still humbled by the outpouring of support.
- Ask for help: If you need something, ask for it. I have had to ask for food in ERs, asked friends for help with my dog, and a number of other things. People often don’t know what to do or how they can help. You would be surprised at how willing they are to give support.
- Speak up: If you think something isn’t right, say something. While they may be the medical professionals, you are the specialist in your child. Especially if they are non verbal, you know when your child is in pain or just not doing well. You know how they normally act and how they communicate things. It’s okay to be “that parent”.
I am sure many of the other parents who read my blog have their own words of advice. Please feel free to add them in the comments section. While I hope no one ever has to have their child in the hospital for any length of time, know that it happens and you can survive it.