We have been blessed with good health in our family. Aside from the odd sniffle, our kids rarely get sick. We have only experienced one bout of gastro and in fact Miss J has never once vomited in her six years (aside from when she had reflux as a baby, which, incidentally was hell!). Up until last year we had never visited the Emergency Department, or been to hospital. And then we went twice in a month. Miss J was the first to visit the ED for croup. We were holidaying down at the beach when she woke during the night with a barking cough and shortness of breath, which, as any parent who has witnessed will know, was frightening. Straight to ED she went! A few weeks later it was Miss H’s turn and her experience mirrored Miss J’s. Again, it was horrible but having been through it before I didn’t panic. She received excellent care at the local hospital and she lapped up the extra cuddles and attention she received because of it.
Last week it was Miss A’s turn to go to hospital. Fortunately, it was not for an emergency. In fact she had been looking forward to it for a month. Given her younger sisters had been to hospital she was feeling a little left out. Miss A had scheduled surgery to have grommets inserted in her ears. She suffered from persistent ear infections last year, which resulted significant hearing loss. After several appointments with an ENT, we decided to go ahead with the procedure. And it was important we do so before school started for the year. Plus, I was growing tired of shouting to be heard. It was living with my dad – she couldn’t hear a thing and I was constantly repeating myself!
There was no need to allay her fears before the big day. She wasn’t nervous. In fact, I would go so far as to say Miss A was excited. She rather enjoyed all the “fuss”. Her best friend gave her a present -a ‘Beanie Boo’ to comfort her at hospital. She was delighted. When I kissed her in bed the night before her procedure, I reasssured her that there was nothing to worry about and told her I’d wake her at 6.30am the next morning so we could be at the hospital at 7.00am. Her biggest concern about the anaesthetic was not being able to eat when she woke up (like mother, like daughter)!
Going into hospital
Miss A woke the next morning at 3.00am. By the time she bundled into my room at 6.00am she had read two books, written in her journal, made her bed and was dressed. She was ready! She maintained her excitement right up until we walked into theatre. She enjoyed having her obs done by the friendly nurses. And she was positively beaming when she received a hospital Teddy Bear, whom she has affectionately called “Grommie.” The anaethesist came and spoke to her just before it was our time and that’s when I saw a hint of nervousness in her eyes. We walked through the double doors to theatre and she looked around at the night lights, hospital equipment and the many people in the room. And that’s when it hit her. I think it hit me, too. Until then I had been entirely relaxed; so much so that many of the nurses presumed we had been to hospital many times before. They said I looked to calm to be a first-timer!
Once Miss A was up on the bed, the theatre staff were quick to act. I imagine this is not just for efficiency but also a tactic to get the child under as soon as possible and mum out of the room. As the mask went over Miss A’s face, and the general anaesthetic was administered, the ENT told me to give her a quick smooch and say goodbye. And in that moment my big girl suddenly looked very little. And she looked vulnerable. A lump formed in my throat. But it wasn’t a lump of worry or fear. I knew it was routine surgery and I had absolute confidence it would go well. But in that moment I thought of the children who go under anaesehtics for more serious operations. And the poor parents of kids who spend entire childhoods in and out of hospital. And I felt so grateful that this would be over soon and my little girl was in safe hands.
After a quick kiss, I walked away and didn’t look back. I returned to the waiting room and no more than 30 minutes later she was awake and ready for me in recovery. It’s fair to say her glow was gone and in its place was a very pale and sick girl. The poor thing had a bad reaction to the anaesthics and was as white as the hospital sheets. She didn’t utter a word for several hours and she spent most of that time dozing and only sitting up to vomit. When she did finally speak she told me she wanted a glass of water but didn’t want to cause more work for the nurses. She’s nothing if not considerate my girl, even when sick she is the most polite and grateful patient.
Sadly she never got to enjoy the breakfast of jelly and icy-cream that was promised to her. She was much to sick to eat or drink for most of the day. But her smile did finally return later in the afternoon when the anti-nausea medication kicked in and her baby sister joined her in bed.
Back home safe and sound
Later that day when we got home I dressed her in the clean and new pyjamas we had bought the day before (because a trip to the hospital needs a new pair of pyjamas) and stroked her hair until she fell asleep. It took me back to the time when she had gastro a few year earlier. During that terrible night we had enjoyed a closeness that often happens in times of illness. We had snuggled up on the couch together and I passed her the bucket every few minutes. I held back her hair as she vomited, then wiped her mouth with a wet cloth and we repeated this process until morning.
I have never felt more a mother than I did during that night. All I wished for in those hours was to take the discomfort away from my precious girl. It’s awful to see your child sick and not be able to do much to help them. But I remembered that small things do actually help. And there is no substitute for mum’s affection. So while I hated seeing her so sick after the anaesthetic, I enjoyed looking after my patient. Sick kids need their mums. And nothing makes you feel more of a mum than when your child needs you.
Has your child ever been to hospital? Are you experienced in anaesthetic and emergency departments? How did they cope? How did you cope?