Last Thursday evening, I posted this status update on my Facebook wall:
My evening: Alternately rocking my four-year-old and cleaning up his puke. Hoisting him off the floor where he slumped when I put him down for two seconds so that I could pee. Trying to get him to swallow medicine while he’s sobbing. Dropping him unceremoniously on the floor when I realize that my two-year-old has just licked the Germ-X of which we’d been using copious amounts. Trying to wash out the little one’s mouth and getting my finger bitten HARD. Trying not to slap the two-year-old. Not slapping the two-year-old. Making him drink milk while trying to convince him it’s not too cold. Going back to attend to my semi-conscious four-year-old slumped on the floor again. Carrying them both upstairs and putting them to bed myself because they both needed Mama. Perching on the bed next door to the four-year-old, ears tuned for the sound of sickness. Good times.
I’ll admit I wrote this partly for comedic effect and partly to drum up a bit of sympathy. Little did I know that my four-year-old would continue to throw up and grow increasingly lethargic for the next three days. We ended up in the emergency room on Sunday and by late afternoon, he’d been admitted. I’ll spare you the graphic details because this post isn’t really about sickness and puking per se. Suffice it to say that dehydration in a small child is not to be taken lightly.
No, what I want to write about it how it feels when your child is hospitalized. I can say now how extremely thankful I am that he was there for only one night and that he required only an IV drip in his arm. I know it could have been so much worse. But that’s not what it felt like Sunday night as I lay there in the not-dark, gazing at my son looking so small and pale in the hospital bed. I felt panicked. Overwhelmed. Desperate. As the nurses came and went all night long, checking vitals and drawing blood, preventing him from sleeping much and me from sleeping AT ALL, I felt helpless. I couldn’t stop thinking about my own hospital experience as a child and how my parents must have felt.
When I was four years old — the exact same age that Big is now — I was hospitalized for eighty-eight days straight. That’s basically three months. Every day for three months, my parents had to see their child, me, looking small and pale in a hospital bed. Ever day for three months, they had to look past the IV drip, past the tubes going in one side of my knee and out the other. They had to wait anxiously through my six surgeries, each time hoping that the infection had been contained and my leg had been saved.
One night more than two months into my stay, the doctors cleared me to go out to dinner with my family. The evening apparently ended when I said, “I want to go home.” I was talking about going back to the hospital. To a four-year-old who doesn’t have much concept of time, two months had become forever; the hospital was now my home. It’s been more than thirty-five years and my parents have not forgotten those five little words.
During my stay at the hospital, they must have felt panicked. Overwhelmed. Desperate. The same things I felt with Big in the hospital for only one night, my parents must have felt for eight-eight days. I cannot imagine.
I want to thank everyone at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for helping my son; ya’ll took great care of him. But please don’t be offended when I say that I never, EVER want to see him spend another night there with you.