In 2009, I experienced what was likely to have been the scariest experience of my entire life. I walked into the living room to see my four-month-old son was dark blue. My son had stopped breathing. I panicked and picking him up, jostling him about and he suddenly gasped and cried. I immediately took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with RSV, a virus that can be fatal in young babies. Before I knew it, my son was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to monitors for four or five days. No parent should ever have to experience what I did when my son was admitted to the hospital, but it’s important to always be prepared in case your child ever does need to be admitted to the hospital.
Ask questions when you can
When my son was first admitted to the hospital, everyone was rushing about, working to get oxygen on my son, as well as barking questions at me to get as quick of a medical history from me as possible. I felt like I was just a bystander, and there were several occasions in which medical professionals were scrambling and rushing about to treat my son immediately. These emergencies aren’t the time to ask questions, but when you can ask questions, do so. Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. The hospital staff are there to help you and your child.
Find someone to help you sleep
You might think that you’ll sleep better in the hospital, especially if your baby is hooked up to monitors that keep track of his breathing and heart rate, but you won’t. The first three days of my son’s hospital stay, I didn’t sleep at all. I couldn’t. Every time I would start to doze off, I’d suddenly panic, imagining that as soon as I fell asleep, he would stop breathing and there would be a power outage causing the monitors not to work and the generator fails and my son would die right next to me with no one ever knowing. I went three days without sleep, and finally, at the point of delirium, one of my friends agreed to come watch him while I slept. Only then could I finally rest.
Bring a notebook
Just on the first day of my son’s hospital admission he had already been seen by at least a dozen different medical professionals. I had a hard time keeping names straight, let alone what they were telling me was wrong with my son, or what they were suggesting we do to help him get better. I bought a notebook in the hospital gift store and started taking notes on everything that was said and even who said it (down to descriptions so I’d remember who was who).
Don’t be afraid to take a break
You might feel as though you need to stay by your child’s side at all times, but you’ll wear yourself out. If you need to take a break, call a friend or family member to stay with your child and give you some reprieve. Go for a walk, grab a meal or take a shower. If your child has a private room, you may even be able to use the shower in the room.
Make someone an informant
It can be easy to forget to call people or let anyone know what’s going on, but it’s important to keep your family and close friends informed, especially since many hospitals won’t allow you to have your cell phone on. When my son was in the hospital, my grandmother had called my husband panicked because she hadn’t heard from me in three days and was worried something had happened to me. If you can, tell a close friend or family member what is going on and to let people know that you may not be reachable while your child is still in the hospital.
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