When children require hospitalization there are a few things you should know:
Upon arrival, if given the opportunity, use valet. Hospitals require so many handicapped parking spots that even with a handicapped sticker, if you don’t arrive before the crack of dawn, you’ll wind up trudging half a mile, in the sleet (in April, uphill, both ways), while pushing a luggage covered, anxious child filled wheelchair anyway.
At pre-op registration, after answering the usual questions, they will hand you an electronic pager to let you know when it’s finally your turn to be prepped. You know, the clunky, obnoxious, red light blinky blink black box that they give you when there’s a ridiculously long wait at your friendly neighborhood pub and grub. Ironic since your starving little patient hasn’t been allowed to eat since midnight and probably won’t eat again until the next day! I’d go ahead and hold the pager yourself.
Pre-op triage is a breeze. The staff repeats everything you hopefully already knew or manically Googled (every day for weeks prior) and then they quickly whisk your baby off to the land behind the curtain, the place of magical mystery where everything you feared, hoped and discussed just might come to fruition!
While waiting for the surgeon to turn water into wine you are wrangled into an overcrowded family waiting room and forced to watch endless reruns of Full House while trying to avoid the curious silent stares of the other hopefuls whose loved ones, it always seems, will be done and moved to private rooms long before yours. And even though you haven’t eaten in 24 hours yourself, the moment you leave that room to snag a satiating egg salad sandwich or steal a quick trip to the potty, the surgical nurse will inevitably call for you and you’ll appear to be out somewhere, presumably working on your second beer…
Late in the day, when surgery is over, our little guys are corralled into a recovery room full of other confused and groggy patients, young and old, also coming out of anesthesia. Oh how it has often reminded me of the sounds coming from an amusement park haunted house (or an X-rated movie) depending upon the day and the painkillers involved.
When the staff is finally convinced that your child knows where they are, and whom they are, (tall order for such tiny ones!) it’s off to your private quarters for some much needed rest and relaxation. If, of course, being woken every 15 minutes for a vitals check, shift change, monitor alert, saline bag change, food service person, cleaning crew recon, Chaplain visit, hospital schoolteacher monitoring, anesthesiologist consult or just a simple ‘You need anything?’ nurse pop in is relaxing to you.
If you do get a miraculous moment of respite, when the pain meds kick in and your child’s eyes finally close, you’re sure to be serenaded by the soothing sounds of newborns crying, monitors beeping, alerts alerting, staplers stapling, staffers chatting, carts-a-rolling and the rap tap tapping of a neighboring patient getting a little exercise… (that was a new one last night). And not to be outdone there was that mysterious noise looming up above that sounded like Bender from the Breakfast Club about to burst through the heating ducts ready to reveal the punch line to his infamously unfinished joke.
With your little one finally resting peacefully it’s Mom and Dad’s turn to fight the good fight for the postage stamp blanket or commandeer the crunchy pillow to cuddle up on the ‘couch’cot while fumbling around the Willy Wonka ’like’ tubes and wires searching frantically for an electrical outlet for a nearly dead laptop in a desperate attempt to get a little work done before my baby boy realizes that I’ve let go of his hand…
This is life, love, hope and humor. These are the moments when we laugh, cry, breathe and sigh all at the same time. These are the times we would never want to live over but couldn’t live without. No matter what the circumstances, with these caregivers and in these hospitals our children are given an opportunity to improve their quality of life and I am forever grateful for every awkward, uncomfortable, terrifying and hilarious moment we’ve been through.
Thank you to my loved ones and the ever-present hospital staff for keeping me sane by also keeping their sense of humor in the face of, well me, and such overwhelming uncertainty.
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