Being in Hospital
For the first time in nearly 2 decades I had to take one of my children for an operation this week – nothing major thankfully – my almost 6 year old daughter Chloë was admitted on Monday for Grommets & an Adenoidectomy (Click on the links to find out more about these). We had been waiting since last September for this appointment and the date was earlier than we’d expected, having previously been informed that we were unlikely to receive one before Easter!
Chloë has been suffering with moderate hearing loss for several years on & off due to the Glue Ear which has plagued her since she was born but it took till now for her ENT consultant to agree to do the surgery. We are frankly relieved.
Chloë, Chloë’s dad & myself had been over to the ward she was going to be admitted to a couple of weeks ago for her pre-op so that she could be checked as fit for her operation as well as see where she was going to be staying. She had the chance to familiarise herself with things like the anaestetics procedures, the nurses, the beds etc so it wouldn’t be so scary when we then arrived on the morning of her actual admission – it would be an early start and the last thing anyone wants is a teary, tired confused little girl who needs an operation.
As any parent with a child who’s been hospitalised for ANY reason, will know, the thought that they are passing the control of their child’s care over to someone else is a very difficult even if your ‘logical brain’ tells you that they are in the best place and in the care of the best people – highly trained, loving & motivated individuals – Doctors & Nurses, Therapists, Radiologists, Pharmacists and all the others working towards the treatment of your child whilst he or she is in their care.
Still, you struggle.
You wake early, before your alarm. You lay there, running through the ‘worst case scenarios’. You cry silently thinking about what could go wrong – even though you know that the risks are 1-in-1000 or 1-in-100 chances. You become ‘hyper organised’ to overcompensate for the worry. You try to make sure that no one notices – ESPECIALLY not your child, they need to be protected from your concerns & see nothing but reassurance!
Then you arrive, settle you child in with their books, cuddly toy and whatever else you’ve brought with you to make them (and you) feel comfortable whilst you wait for the porters to wheel your precious one to theatre.
You pretend you’re all good as you talk through what’s going to happen with the surgeon and anaesthetist, all the time your stomach churning. You sign the permission forms and they walk away having shaken your hands.
Then, they’re gone – you’ve walked down to theatre with their little hand in yours and watched as they went under the anaesthetic gas – trying not to cry all the time – and walked away when they closed their little eyes…….. and you either sit by the space where their bed should be drinking coffee till they come back, or you sit on those ridiculously uncomfortable chairs in parents rooms, waiting, trying to work & keep your mind of what’s going on around you.
Whether it’s less than an hour or an entire afternoon, the minutes will drip … drip … drip … you run through all those risks of surgery again in your head, and you will look up every time someone walks past, turning your head each time you hear someone calls out, expecting them to be calling for you – until they do, allowing you to breathe again because your child is safe, and it’s all over and they are in the recovery room & “do you want to come and see them?”
Walking through the theatre area as calmly as you can you reach recovery and find your child connected to monitors, I.V’s and with bandages, dressings, looking pale, asleep or in tears and most of all needing you to hug them and make the pain go away.
But you can’t. You can’t.
You ask the nurse to help, which they do of course and slowly your child feels a bit more comfortable, a bit less fuzzy and confused and you can all go back to the ward where you have things to play with or read or watch. You sit quietly watching your child breathing, maybe as they sleep, maybe as they lay quietly watching something on a tablet or possibly trying to eat because you had to starve them before their op, getting better little by little until declared well enough to be ‘fit for discharge’ It doesn’t get any easier even when you’ve been doing it as long as I have – 8 children and a dozen operations later!
Hearing the words “It all went very well” from your child’s surgeon is one of the best things you’ll ever hear, but whilst that is exactly what my OH and I got to hear on Monday – and hopefully Chloë will only require a single follow-up appointment with her consultant – I am also painfully aware that there are many thousands of families out there who don’t get to hear those words, don’t get to walk out at the end of just one day, spend hour after hour waiting, hoping and praying.
I feel for every single one of you.
I’m also trying very hard to reconcile the fact that we will also almost definitely have to go through it all again this year as Chloë is undergoing investigation with Paediatric Urology at Imperial College Hospital.
We’ll get through it. We’re family.
I know you’ll get through whatever your family faces too. There are a whole load of others just waiting in the wings ready to hold your hand if you need them – that includes me, if you need me…