When Staying at the Hospital with Your Child

Hospital trips are never fun even when they are planned. If you ever find yourself with a planned hospital trip with your child, young or old here are a few ideas for you to take along.

1. Handheld games such as video games of all sorts – Dillon owns a PSP, but any hand held will do. Toys R Us and Wal-Mart also sell those $10 hand held type games for all ages.

2. A favorite animal or blanket. While Dillon is too old for a stuffed animal or security blanket, he does have a throw that my mother made him several years ago. Hospital blankets are actually very thin and the room can be cold. Having that extra throw helped keep him warm and did provide a sense of normalcy and home.

3. Art supplies. Younger children can be kept entertained with a coloring book and crayons. Dillon (my artist in the family) has his own sketch book and charcoal pencils. This did an excellent job keeping him occupied and giving him something productive to focus on rather than the wires glued to his head. It also provided a bonding opportunity between he and the medical staff – giving them something tangible to talk about other than his medical condition.

4. Books are always a favorite, unless you are 15. Most children’s hospitals have an excellent selection of books for your child to read while they are there.

5. Snacks – The hospital only serves three meals a day and let’s face it while the food is nutritious , tasty it isn’t. I could not get Dillon to really eat any of the meals they served even if they were “kid friendly.” We brought with us things like trail mix, fruit snacks, Jello/fruit cups, string cheese and slim jims. The floor had a family kitchen with a refrigerator. Be sure check with the nurse or doctor before allowing your child to eat them. Dillon was placed on a special diet our second day there (no sugar) and he could not have most of what I brought for that one day. They did however allow sunflower seeds.

6. Toiletries for both you and your child. Children‘s rooms are usually private, they also supply little bitty towels and baby shampoo. Thankfully I brought our own. While Dillon could not take a shower until the last day due to the EEG, he was much appreciative of having some personal comforts from home such as adult shampoo. If you do forget something from home, such as a toothbrush, you can find them in the gift shop at the hospital.

7. Do not forget money for meals for you. Dillon’s food was covered on our three day stay, mine were not. The hospital cafeteria has changed over the years offering a wide variety of excellent meals, but plan on spending no less that $7 per meal.

8. Some rooms come equipped with DVD/VCR players (at least in the kids ward.) so we brought different videos from home to keep entertained during the daytime. The hospital also had a child resource center that allowed us to check out movies and even a Wii Video game player with Wii Sports.

9. Cell phones and laptops if you have them. – Dillon and I both brought our cell phones with us. Since we have unlimited texting, he was able to keep in touch with his classmates during the stay. This was very comforting for him and it helped me stay in touch with my husband when phone calls just were not feasible. I brought a lap top just in case we had Wi-Fi access. The floor did indeed allow wi-fi, but most pages were banned from their server. Still I was able to access blogger as well as yahoo mail. This enabled us to keep in touch with friends and family who wanted updates during our stay. It also came in handy when I wanted to research medication suggestions or tests they were running.

10. A folder and a notebook. Being in the hospital means being inundated with facts, figures, information, and what not. There was absolutely no way I could keep all of the information in my head. Write down what they tell you so that you can look it over, and mark any questions you have for when they come back. I had a notebook folder that I was able to put all of the fact sheets and whatnot the doctors and nurses gave us while we were there.

I don’t suggest bringing unrealistic expectations, such as you and your child are going to get along wonderfully, that they are happy and compliant to be there or that you as a parent will handle every situation perfectly. Hospitals are a scary place and children will communicate that fear in many different ways. A normally talkative and enjoyable child can suddenly start acting out and withdrawing emotionally. Don’t force a kid to be happy to be there. Give them honest and age appropriate answer to their questions. Be there with them, love them, and keep your boundaries. Sometimes a child will test to see “How sick am I?“ by seeing how much they get away with. The more a child suddenly gets away with, the more sick they will believe they are. Remembering that will help a lot. And remembering to take breaks will help you a lot as well. Parents can be scared too, but we try not to show it because we don’t want to scare our kids. Be patient and understanding of yourself as well.

I brought Dillon’s homework with him thinking he would be able to work on it while we were there. This child was so sleep deprived, because of the type of testing we were doing, that he wasn’t able to work on it. And that’s okay. Work with the school and teachers for an extension on missed assignments if need be.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself. Most of the people on the ward were locals and had multiple families members there to help them. That isn’t always the case, and sometimes you’ll find yourself the primary caretaker while your child is in the hospital. Don’t be afraid to take walks from time to time (just check with the nurse first) or to eat downstairs. Mom’s and Dad’s need quiet moments too. What parents are offered to sleep on might not be the best accommodations (I had a hard mat-like couch thing) but do try to sleep or rest. I know it’s hard, I spent more time laying awake listening for Dillon than I did sleeping, but do try.

And take advantage of the things the hospital does offer. The child care people offered to come in and play games with Dillon to give me a break – but I didn’t take advantage of that. Hospitals also have chaplains available to talk too.. Just to talk to if you need a spiritual pick me up.

It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a new diagnosis or a long term issue, every step, every test, every something new brings it own challenges, fears and / or joys. Have a support group of friends and family to talk to and lean on. Don’t be super Mom (or Dad) and think you have to do it all by yourself. You don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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