Daddy Diary – Coping With a Child in the Hospital


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Seriously, it is a parent’s worst possible fear: A son or daughter experiencing some form of illness or malady. As a parent, you diligently guard and try to protect your child from any hurt, harm, or danger. Unfortunately, as mere mortals, as best as we might attempt, we cannot shield our children from everything. And at the 16 month mark of my little girl’s life, Stephanie and I have 3 emergency room visits and 2 hospitalizations under our belt with our ladybug. Trust me, our unexpected trips to the hospital with our little one elicited heart palpitations and surely gave rise to a few more gray hairs. Nevertheless, all is well, and we are all back home doing just fine. As a father, you will definitely enjoy some great moments with your offspring. However, there are going to be some not-so-great moments like hospital visits. Here are a few key points to remember if you find yourself dealing with such an experience. I am no expert, but hopefully some of these points will help. And if you have some advice of your own, please share.

Coping With a Child in the Hospital

  • Ask a lot of questions. Trust, the medical staff is going to ask a lot of questions and require a myriad of information. It is only right that you ask questions as well. No question is a stupid question. And don’t feel as if your questions are annoying. You deserve to be informed about what is transpiring with your child.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your concerns about hospital performance in a respectful manner. Now, this had nothing to do with performance, but on one of our visits, we shared a room with a very, very disruptive child. Concerned about my 16 month old child being able to rest with a rampaging 5-year-old in the room, I respectfully voiced my concerns with a nurse and requested a private room. Ten minutes later, we had our private room.
  • It is always helpful to know your child’s medical history. If you don’t know, or if the history is very extensive, it would probably be helpful to write it down and place in a safe, readily accessible place.
  • If you are not in possession of an eidetic memory – and there is a great possibility that you are not – ensure that you document keys points that are being relayed by the medical staff. It is best if two people are present – to act as an information checks & balances – at the hospital when speaking with the staff. However, too many people trying to interpret information and talk to staff can be counterproductive, as information can become ambiguous and staff can be slowed in their medical duties as they attempt to address multiple individuals. Use your best judgment when determining how many people should be present.
  • Make sure you are absolutely clear about your discharge instructions, especially if it involves post-hospital medication and care. Errors can occur, so ensure that you, your mate (when possible), the physician, and the pharmacist are all on the same page.
  • Just prior to pregnancy, it is advised that parents retain an overnight travel bag on standby in the event of expected labor & delivery. Well, keeping a well-stocked bag in the case of a sick child really isn’t feasible for some. However, you should keep an empty travel bag nearby, and you should maintain a checklist of items (along with their location) that are essential for overnight hospital stays. If you don’t have a list, at least commit to memory where all your home essentials are housed.
  • A gentleman has to get his mind right. If you are dealing with an emergency room visit and possible admission; your first priority is your child and wife (or mate). So, at least for the first day, expect to forgo full meals and a shower. Expect limited, if not uncomfortable sleep – hospitals aren’t meant to double as luxury hotels. And expect to recite your medical account to the staff ad nauseam. Be patient. They are only collecting detailed data that will assist them with treating the medical situation. And you may recall some points that you even forgot.
  • If you are becoming overwhelmed; leave and go decompress. With our first ER, I arrived after my daughter had been admitted. In the midst of a bad allergic reaction, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see as I walked in the room. I had to step away into a bathroom, have a quick cry, compose myself, and then return with a clear head so I could better absorb the information and questions that were headed my way. In these situations, a clear head is paramount.
  • There will be times where exhaustion will take hold of you. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends and family to run errands that you don’t have time to tend to.
  • A lot of strange people are going to be poking and prodding your child. You will stand by helpless as your child looks to you through screams and tears for rescue. Yet, you understand that a battery of tests and checks are uncomfortably necessary. Nevertheless, it does not make the experience any easier. You’re going to need every trick in your personal baby book to help your little one weather the storm. This means that up until this point, you definitely need to be in tune with your child’s personality. You need to know what puts them at ease. You need to know what makes them laugh. Toys. Favorite books. A favorite program that can be played on a smart phone. For me and my wife, the combination of her breastfeeding when she could and me playing Small Potatoes (an animated short television series on Disney Junior) on my smart phone helped tremendously. I also have to believe that my howling singing the Small Potato tunes helped as well.

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