the long haul: tips for staying with your hospitalized kiddo

The Long Haul

The girl recently had a spinal fusion to correct scoliosis that had us in the hospital for seven nights.

And four weeks later, we were back for another surgery to remove a few screws that were pressing on nerves.

That meant three more nights of living and sleeping at the hospital.

Five of those nights were in that bed – y’all, under no circumstances is that a bed. It’s a vinyl chair from the early 70’s that pulls out into something you can sort of sleep on. The ICU at our Shriner’s decided I now hold the record for most nights on it.

I’ve decided I’ve earned my Girl Scout badge on the topic.

And because I had so much trouble finding information for parents staying with hospitalized kiddos, I thought I’d share what I learned.

  • Before the procedure, find out what your options are. We knew the girl would be in the ICU for a few nights. I was allowed to stay with her as long as she wasn’t intubated.  There was also a Ronald McDonald House and Kiwanis House in the area.
    I chose to stay at the hospital.
    I was also able to learn that there were showers at the hospital for parents to use, with towels provided. Toiletries, however, were not.
  • Think multi-use clothing.  Yoga pants, comforatble t’s, layers. I ended up wearing most of my clothes as pajamas. It was just easier and, quite frankly, I didn’t care. And slippers aren’t a bad idea.
    I walked from the ICU to the restroom one night in yoga pants, a tank, socks and no glasses. No one noticed and no one cared.
  • Bring a sleep mask. Even if you’re in a regular room, it’s fairly bright. If you’re in the ICU, it can feel like you’re trying to sleep on the sun. I have and absolutely love this one.
    I wouldn’t recommend ear plugs, though. If your child needs you, you’re going to want to hear them call.
  • Your own blanket and pillow.  Hospital blankets are kind of scratchy. And the pillows are kind of sad. It’s also a bit of home.
    And if you’re sleeping on one of those amazingly 70’s-tastic chairs, put a hospital blanket or two under the sheet. It helps keep from sliding around while you sleep.
    It took me three nights to figure that out.
  • Food related…Find out the cafeteria policies I found out after our stay that if I’d brought in a travel cup with a lid, I could have filled up anytime for free.
    Always get an extra cup of ice and water. I found myself getting really dehydrated.
    Ask about special menus and needs.
    Bring cash for the cafeteria and hoard your quarters for vending machines.
    Keep some snacks in your child’s room if possible. Some days, I couldn’t make it to the cafeteria during the hours it was open and was thankful for the protein bars and fruit I kept stashed in a drawer. Bottled water is also nice, or a water bottle you can refill.
  • Make an effort to become friends with your RN’s. They’re going to be the ones really taking care of your child and the ones to call the doctor if something isn’t right. After our two hospital stays and the rock start RN’s that took care of the girl, I want to buy them all Starbucks. And mansions.
  • Things to keep you occupied. Books, magazines, smart phone, tablet, knitting – it’s all good.
    But the old saying about sleeping when your newborn sleeps? It applies here.
  • Find an advocate. If you have a family member with medical training, take advantage of them. Seriously. The girl was having severe nausea and dry heaving after her first surgery. We thought perhaps it was just the eight hours of anesthesia, but my husband’s aunt – a retired RN – noticed the issues started within two minutes of pushing that button that gave her a dose of dilaudid, a powerful narcotic. She even kept her own chart of it and was able to show the RN on duty, who in turn was immediately get the medicine changed to something she was able to tolerate.
  • Get out of the hospital, if you can. Make a Target run. Walk around the block. Find the hospital patio and sit outside. If a friend or family member offers to sit with your child, give them a quick in-service and head out. You need some time for you.

Next week, I’ll share some things that made the girl’s stay easier and more comfortable, especially for spinal surgeries.

Have you been through an experience like ours? Anything you would add? I’d love to develop a place for parents to come and find this info and more.

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2 thoughts on “the long haul: tips for staying with your hospitalized kiddo

  1. Really really great post. Thankfully I’ve never had to spend the night in a hospital, but I’m sure it will happen eventually. Especially with my parents getting to be closer to 80. I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is going through this but I’m sure she will appreciate it later. One of my best girlfriends had the same/similar surgery when she was younger. She is incredibly grateful that she did it, even though it meant she couldn’t get the epidural when she gave birth now that she’s older and married.

  2. Pingback: what to pack when your child has spinal surgery | Awkward Girl Gets Fit

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