I had some time on my hands while I was at the hospital, so I compiled a list of things I wish I had known on previous hospital stays. Some of it is probably specific to our hospital but most of it will probably apply to any hospital stay.
Hospital 101: What I Wish I’d Known the First Time
1. Bring enough clothes to last you for twice as long as you think you’ll be there and leave the extras in the car just in case.
2. Bring snacks that you like, both salty & sweet, and a couple of drinks (bottled water, juice, etc.). Goldfish crackers and grape juice are plentiful at the hospital but they get old fast and vending machine snacks add up quickly.
3. If you must shower at the hospital, wear flip flops and ask for extra towels so you can put some down on the floor while you get dressed. Never know what’s living in the bathrooms.
4. Use hand sanitizer every time you walk into your child’s room, before you eat, before you touch your child, after you change his/her diapers, and especially after you touch any elevator buttons/doorknobs/light switches. It’s important to protect your child from germs and equally important to protect yourself. It’s also a good idea to scrub thoroughly with soap & water after you change poopy diapers, as some bacteria are able to withstand alcohol-based hand sanitizer (such as clostridium difficile, aka c. diff).
5. Insist that EVERYONE who enters your child’s room (visitors, doctors, nurses, techs, hospital volunteers, etc.) scrub their hands or use hand sanitizer, especially if they will be touching your child. (not trying to be a germophobe, but it really is better to be safe than sorry)
6. Where appropriate, get involved in helping with things that will become your responsibility to do when your child goes home. For us, that includes things like giving medications, GJ tube site care, and feeding routines. It’s important to feel comfortable caring for your child before you go home and nurses are great teachers.
7. Be curious and ask questions. If you don’t know what a doctor or nurse is doing with your child and/or why, ask them. If they use words you don’t know, ask what they mean. Don’t worry about sounding dumb because the bottom line is that the more you understand about your child’s condition, the better you will be able to care for him or her.
8. Take a small notepad so that you can write down questions as you think of them. That way you’ll remember everything you wanted to ask the next time you are able to talk to the doctor and you can write down their answers so you don’t forget.
9. Personally, I like to write down pretty much everything that happens with Raya during her hospital stay. Nurses keep good records but they don’t share them with the parents. I like to write down a timeline of the day & include what time Raya got medications, feeding schedule, vomiting, etc. Excessive, perhaps, but it’s so much easier to remember information & answer her doctors’ questions when I’ve written everything down. Especially in hospitals where sleep deprivation runs rampant and the days run together.
10. Take breaks and go outside. More than once I’ve gone out to get the aforementioned extra bag of clothes out of the car only to realize that it’s the first time I’ve been outside in 5 days. There’s nothing wrong with leaving your child’s room once in a while to get some fresh air & take a breather, especially if you’re feeling stressed.
11. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t like something that’s going on with your child. You are your child’s health care advocate and it’s your responsibility to watch out for them. If you see someone not washing their hands or wearing the required protective clothing, say something to them. If the nurse or tech you had one day really rubbed you the wrong way, discreetly ask the charge nurse to make sure you have a different one the next day. There’s nothing wrong with doing that.
12. It might be a good idea to bring pajamas and comfortable clothes for your child. The hospital-issued pajama pants are more or less one-size-fits-lots so I like to at least have pants that I know will fit Raya. The shirts being too big isn't an issue but the pants being too big is a pain.
13. YOU WILL BE BORED. I have learned that sometimes (lots of times) there’s nothing you can do but sit around and wait. There might be days (sometimes several) when all the doctor wants to do is monitor your child. Bring something to do. Some of the best time killers I’ve had are yarn & a crochet hook, my Nintendo DS, magazines, and a laptop.
14. Don’t forget pajama pants or your cell phone charger.
15. BRING A JACKET. Hospitals are freezing cold, especially near the operating room and testing areas (i.e. radiology, cath lab, endoscopy). Warm socks aren’t a bad idea either.
16. Bring a camera and use it, even if you don’t like the condition your child is in. What they go through (and consequently what YOU go through) as a child is an important part of their life story. Someday you can show them the pictures and say, “See what you put me through when you were little? You’d better behave yourself, Mr./Miss Teenager!”
17. Hospital cafeteria food isn’t bad and it’s a lot cheaper & more convenient than going out.
18. If your child has had surgery or has a need for pain medication, don’t be shy about asking for it. Sometimes nurses get busy and get behind on giving pain meds so if you notice that your child is in pain or that it’s time for another dose, call the nurse and ask for it.
19. Bring your own shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, & razor.
20. If your hospital requires parents to wear an annoying plastic visitor badge like our hospital does, ask them if you have the option of having a much less obtrusive wristband.
I'm sure there's more that I've left off but this was what I thought of over the last week of our stay. I hope it helps somebody! :)