My 2-year-old son is currently on his 14th day and counting at the hospital this month. He had a long NICU stay after he was born, and he has had many, many, many hospitalizations since for seizures and respiratory illnesses.
Our family has all become quite accustomed to the hospital life.
This admission has been especially difficult, since he was admitted on his second birthday, and all of the special things we had planned for the day became dust in the wind. We brought his gifts to the hospital for him, but he was too exhausted and miserable to even pay attention to them.
I have been very mopey this time around and have been thinking a lot about the hassles and frustrating aspects of being in the hospital.
But there are actually many positive aspects about a hospital stay as well, and in order to keep myself from going down a crazy, depressive spiral, I have been trying to remember some of these good things along with the bad.
Here’s my list of pros and cons about stays at this particular hospital we frequent a lot in St. Louis:
CON: Spending birthdays and holidays in the hospital.
PRO: The staff at the hospital, from nurses to child life therapists, are amazing at trying to make things special for not only our son but his siblings as well.
We’ve gotten visits from Spiderman and Batman with balloons and a teddy bear for Walt and a rose for me on Valentine’s Day. We’ve received birthday room decorations and a special gift on our son’s birthday. We’ve been served Thanksgiving meals. Social workers took our girls to a breakfast with Santa in the Ronald McDonald room while we stayed in isolation with our son. Our girls also got to see a special Nutcracker ballet in the lobby during Walt’s NICU stay, they have enjoyed the child life play room many times, they have received hot cocoa from costumed reindeer coming door to door during the holiday season, and we always attend the amazing carnival for families every summer here.
The staff is so wonderful and there are so many cool things they do for the kids here. I really appreciate all of the effort everyone goes to here to make things special for patients, their siblings, and family members.
CON: Dividing and conquering with my husband to take care of all four of our kids.
It’s not always fun sleeping on the pull-out hospital couch, using the hospital room shower and bathroom, and eating hospital cafeteria food. It can also be very lonely.
PRO: At times, being at the hospital with only my son can be a little bit peaceful.
It is much more quiet here than at home with our three crazy girls! Sometimes it is nice to be able to focus entirely on my son, to have all of the nurses available to help with his nighttime routine, and to not have to be part of our girls’ bedtime routine, which is usually pretty chaotic!
My back is usually pretty sore from sleeping on the fold-out couch during a hospital stay, but on the other hand, when you’re so exhausted, lying down and having a pillow and blanket can be such an amazing comfort. The same idea applies with the hospital shower, and I am always grateful that at this hospital, we have private rooms. We have had stays at another children’s hospital where we’ve had a roommate and consequently could not even use the bathroom in our kids’ room. We had to leave to go to the parent lounge to go to the bathroom and to shower.
Also, even if I get a little tired of the constant cafeteria food, it is nice that at 12 in the morning, after I start my son’s tube feeding, I can go down to the cafeteria and get some tomato bisque with goldfish crackers and a turkey burger without having to do any cooking or any cleaning up other than throwing the trash away! The hospital also has a great Ronald McDonald room, where we can get sodas and snacks, another place to shower, do laundry, and pick up any toiletries we are missing. There is also a fantastic pantry on the floor where we can get ice water, white soda, and treats for our kids when they come to visit. They love getting dessert from the pantry!!
On the flip side, on evenings when my husband stays at the hospital with our son, sometimes I can fit in special dinners or outings with my girls. We had a book reading party at home the other night and stayed up until 12:30 a.m.! (no school the next day!)
CON: There are traumatic and sad memories around every corner.
We have spent so much time here under so many difficult circumstances that I have memories of crying and being upset or miserable nearly everywhere I go here. They don’t hit me every single time, especially as I’ve come here with my son for regular appointments as well as hospital stays, but sometimes the sappy elevator music in the lobby or the couch near the elevators where I had another nervous breakdown brings back some pretty awful memories. And I start to feel sweaty and anxious and queasy just from remembering.
PRO: At least it doesn’t happen every time?
And I definitely know my way around the place! And I can think about a lot of the nice memories of times we have had here as well. like the day I snuggled my son kangaroo style for nine hours in the NICU. Or the joyful times when he has started feeling better during a hospitalization and started to smile and play a little bit.
Also, friendly faces can be found around every corner here. A walk to the pantry or the cafeteria or the gift shop inevitably will include an encounter with a kind person who helped us during all of our times here. It’s hard to put into words how much that means to us, and it is by far the best thing about a hospital stay here.
I cannot say a single negative thing about any of the doctors, nurses, technicians, respiratory techs, therapists, social workers, administrative staff, pastoral care, or any other person who has worked with us here. Everyone is very kind and considerate and seems genuinely concerned about us and our family. It really shows and it makes such a huge difference to us.
This care and compassion is by far the most comforting and hopeful part of a hospital stay. We are so grateful for the care we all receive here.
Photo credit: flickr.com
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