when your kid’s in the hospital

Slizard attacks Birdbot
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Later this afternoon we might be able to go home!

It’s been an ordeal.

If your kid goes in the hospital, please remember:

– write everything down in an organized way. Doctor names, nurse names, medicines with dosage and time. The hospital should pass out some kind of little record book for parents, really. Write down who says what. I think it would have helped if I had re-organized and transcribed my notes every day. But what notes I had were very helpful.

– It is your right and responsibility as a parent to be the advocate for the patient – your child. You are the one who has to look out for their interests, health, and comfort. (The doctors’ job is to have your kid not die or suffer permanent physical damage, and to get you out of the hospital as fast as possible without getting sued.)

– Consider everything you know about the game of “telephone” or “gossip” and principles of communication. Multiply times a million. Your job is to prevent that.

– Make each doctor and each nurse who comes on shift explain to you what they know about the facts of the case. When I do this I find that they often have significant details wrong. You have to know what they think they know, in order for YOU to judge if their judgements are good.

– It does not matter how polite, nice, sympathetic, good bedside manner the doctor has. Do not worry about hurting the nice doctor’s feelings or making them think you are annoying. Make them tell you straight up if they are uncertain about something, and their justifications for doing stuff.

– learn to be quick with your narrative and give only the significant details. It’s hard to figure out what’s significant to a doctor.

– call them on their bullshit when they say stuff that disses your kid – “oh, you know how stubborn/whiny/etc kids can be”. No. Your kid has dignity, and is in pain, and if they are scared, it’s for good reason. That has to be respected, and often you have to remind a doctor of it.

– remember that doctors have tension and power struggles between each other, between departments, nurses, etc. Just stay alert to that. Often there is a lot of bullshit going on. First you have to know it and “name the problem”. Gossip with whoever will gossip with you.

– If something isn’t working and your kid’s freaking, back off for a few minutes and try again. If it isn’t crucial, there is no need to be in a brutal power struggle, especially with an audience of nurses. And that dynamic can develop very quickly.

– look shit up. i know, I have it good with the laptop so I can check on everything.

– call for backup from friends. I should have done this more, because then I would be more effective when “on duty”.

– don’t deny the kid’s pain or try to trick them or say that something won’t hurt when it will. On the other hand don’t reward them for whining. It’s a fine line. Acknowledge that the pain is hard, and that it sucks, and then praise them for dealing with it as well as they are.

– stories of times you were suffering, and then time passed and you got over it, are helpful

– offer your kid lots of minor pain relief/comfort measures. Vaseline their lips. Alternate hot and cold packs. Give them a wet facecloth or a wipe. Anything they can control is especially good.

– fight to minimize chaos, keep everything neat and at hand. establish “now we’re eating… now we’re stopping entertainment and trying to sleep”. again, hard to do in a hospital environment.

That’s it for now. Actually, all this is great to keep in mind for yourself and anyone you know in the hospital. Keep it in mind with elder care, etc. The person who’s sick is usually in no place to think of all this stuff and factor it into decision making. So anyone, child or adult, in a hospital system who has an advocate is very lucky.

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