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What I Learned This Week – 4/6/14

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This week I have been following a new drama.

It is a medical based drama. A baby was born at just 24 weeks (they are supposed to cook for a full 40, or as close to it as possible) and less than a pound. The doctors said the preemie wouldn’t last 48 hours. But the couple was still so positive and happy. Getting pregnant had been a struggle for them. They had tried for years to have a baby that they could take fishing and make root for the Green Bay Packers.

With the prayers of all their friends and family and Facebook friends, the baby boy made it past 48 hours. He then made it past 72 hours. They called him their little fighter, their little angel.

I couldn’t help but be envious of their positive attitude. I had to send my own son off into operating rooms three times in the past, every time I was almost hysterical and convinced I would never see him alive again. And he was six months old and a healthy weight the first time that happened.

The thing is, this wasn’t a new television show or a Hollywood movie. This was the child of my former neighbors.

Neighbors are a weird thing. We are in the city. We lived close enough that our driveways and back doors are only a few feet apart. We would help each other look for our lost dogs in the dark. We would hear each other arguing with our spouses, either outside or when the windows were open. We would reveal things to each other in passing. For example, they were the third people to find out when I was pregnant with my own son. Only because they happened to be outside that night.

Yet, when all this happened, we aren’t technically close enough to them to help in any meaningful way. All I could give them were thoughts and prayers.

That wasn’t enough. The baby passed on after 4 days.

I know from my own limited experience with a child in the hospital that their lives must have revolved around that baby and that hospital for that period of time.  A hospital is not a nice place to live.  Especially if you are not the one who is being treated.  I have never lost a baby myself. I can’t imagine how horrible it will be for them to return home after this ordeal, empty-handed.

What I learned this week is that I am not good with birth. Or death. And that we never appreciate what we have.

I didn’t get that shining moment when you hold your baby and smile at it. I was busy puking while someone else was trying to tape a bag to his tiny nutsack so they could get a urine sample.

I live in denial about death. I try not to think about my hamster who died over ten years ago. I compartmentalized my gramma’s death. Part of my brain just thinks she is still off in the nursing home.

I think we are just programmed as humans to not be able to realize how lucky we are. It is so easy to get in an argument with my 3 year old son over eating his breakfast or sitting on the potty. I should be so happy that he is here and healthy. But, I guess, if I remembered that, I would also never discipline him and buy him Thomas toys until we are broke, bankrupt, and foreclosed on.

Life balance is hard. Maybe we should just spend a few minutes every day realizing what we really have.

This is all painful. It is not my story. That is why I haven’t included any names or dates. But a lot of my past week was thinking about this little peanut, and I felt like I had to spill it out of me.

Rating Hospital Rooms

I have spent a lot of time in hospital rooms over the past year and one month. In three different hospitals. In two different states. It seems only right to write a blog where I rate them, as my husband and I are constantly comparing them in our heads anyway.

Apparently the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has been totally rebuilt and has only had the new building open for about three weeks. The room is a nice size. There is plenty of room for a crib, stroller, the sleep chair, and the obligatory rolling hospital table. There is also a couch that folds into a twin bed. In our twelfth floor room is a half-window which overlooks…a cemetery. Kinda morbid.

There is a super fancy multi-media TV system in the room. It lets you watch television, get on the Internet, watch a few pre-selected family movies, and watch videos on hand-washing. But you either have to use a keyboard to navigate it or the TV remote. If I am holding my son (which is all he wants after being sliced open), I can’t put a keyboard in my lap and it is hard to use the TV remote when it is attached by a cord to the wall—on the OTHER side of the crib. Also, there is Surround Sound. That makes it very difficult to watch TV while my kid is sleeping. Also, the speaker on the TV remote has static –very sad considering it is supposedly only three weeks old. And it is missing obviously useful buttons such as “mute” and “closed captioning”.

The fold-out couch has a design flaw where you can’t lay too close to the back of it. The bathroom is private with a shower, but it is made so that you could probably use the toilet and take a shower at the same time. The rooms also have a wall of windows open to the hallway. There is a curtain you can pull, but we all know that it is opened again as soon as the first nurse pops in. It makes you feel a bit like a zoo animal.

The Toledo Children’s Hospital can go either way. You can end up with a room no bigger than a closet—so small there isn’t even room for the obligatory rolling hospital table. So small it has a tiny shared bathroom, no shower.

You can end up with an average room, which will barely hold a crib, two sleeper chairs, a stroller, and the obligatory rolling table. It had a roomy private bathroom, but no shower. There was a shared parent shower available. Which can be very inconvenient if you stay multiple nights with your child.

If you are super lucky, you will get one of the new rooms at the Toledo Children’s Hospital. They have a full wall window, a couch that converts into a double bed, a bathroom with a tub and shower, and a large flat-screen TV. That room felt like a hotel. Especially since by the time we got into that room my son wasn’t very sick and the staff mostly left us to ourselves. OK. Correction, like a VERY EXPENSIVE HOTEL.

The most spacious hospital room I have ever had the pleasure of staying in was in the maternity ward at Bixby Medical Center in Adrian, Michigan, when my son was born. There was a hospital bed, obligatory rolling table, a small round dining table, two chairs at it, two rocking chairs, a fold out couch, and an entertainment center. At one point, we had an electric wheelchair and a wide wheelchair in there too yet. It also had a private bathroom with a shower stall.

You will notice that I only rated the rooms themselves, and not the service. I believe your service depends on who your nurse or doctor is and what their mood is that day. I have noticed that you can ask any employee at Toledo Hospital how to get somewhere within the hospital and they will not only help you, they might walk you there personally. At U of M Hospital, I have asked people how to get to the main cafeteria and where the billing department is. Both people said they would let me know…I am still waiting for that information.

Just Remember, It Could Always be Worse

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My son had surgery on 6/28. We were in the recovery room for six hours before the anesthesia wore off enough that he could go to a regular room. That sounds awful and scary, and it was. But while my son was in the recovery room, a four year old boy came in who was being treated for cancer. He had just spend a month at a clinic in Cleveland. He screamed in pain and kept begging the nurses that he just wanted to go home with his sister and be in his own pajamas in his own bed with his dog. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t really feel bad about my baby, who had a surgery that went well and just needed more time to get other his anesthesia cocktail. I realized we were lucky, that someone else always has it worse.

I thought of that kid many times over the following week. When my son was losing blood and no one knew where it was going. When he had a 105 degree fever. When he needed a blood transfusion. When they told us he had a hematoma. When he ended up in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. When we were at the hospital for eleven days instead of two. I always, in the back of my head, thought he still has it better than that boy. There are probably parents who would call the cancer boy lucky, because he is still alive, while their children are not.

My son is home now & doing well. Sleeping in his own bed. I guess I will always wonder, sadly, if that little boy ever got to sleep in his own bed in his own pajamas, with his dog & his sister.

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