Some of you may have seen this week that my eldest has been in hospital after having a severe asthma attack. She hasn’t had asthma before so this was somewhat of a shock (for all concerned) and she was very ill for a few days. Fortunately she’s a lot better now but it’s been a stressful and frantic week. Now that I’m home and she’s tucked up in bed asleep upstairs, I’ve had time to reflect. And I realised that as hard as this week has been, it’s taught me some valuable lessons about parenting a sick child that I wanted to share with you.
#1 – you can find more patience than you ever thought possible
Thanks to a botched attempt to put a cannula in the first day, my daughter was absolutely terrified of anyone trying anything like it again. Which meant that, when they mentioned she needed a blood test yesterday, she went to pieces. It took me 4 hours to talk her round. 4 hours. For a simple blood test. And I would have thought that this would have been really frustrating and annoying for me. But actually, I would have taken days if it meant that she was happy about what was being done.
Those 4 hours of talking it through and helping her to consider all options was definitely time well spent. The nurse was fantastic and supported her (and me) the whole time. Meaning that when she finally consented to have it done it was quick, painless and totally calm. The patience I showed helped her to deal with her fears and make the right decision for her. If I’d been pissed off, rushed her or tried a blunt, ‘tough love’ approach she’d never have got there. And we would both have been left really stressed and traumatised by the whole thing!
#2 – you will be put in difficult positions
When the Dr first came in to do the blood test she brought the needle out and my daughter immediately burst into tears and tried to climb off the bed even though she couldn’t walk. The Drs response was to tell me that I needed to hold her down while she did it.
I knew it needed to be done but there was no way that anyone was going to do anything to my daughter that she didn’t consent to. And this made me fairly unpopular with the Dr. Luckily one of the nurses took my side and told the Dr to leave it and that we’d manage it during the night shift (which we did). But I can only imagine how traumatised my daughter would have been if I’d pinned her arm down and let the Dr do it.
It took all my willpower and strength to refuse though as it would have been easier to comply. If the situation had been more serious I don’t honestly know what I’d have done. Could I force my child to do something against their will because someone else felt it was for the best? I don’t know. And I’m grateful I didn’t have to find out.
#3 – you may have to admit your mistakes
When my daughter complained of having trouble breathing on Monday I dismissed it. My other two children were taking all of my time and so I just thought that she was finding some way to get my attention. Even the following morning when she said she felt really unwell I still thought she was exaggerating. It was only after making her walk on the school run that I realised how serious it was and made arrangements to get her to A&E. In some respects it worked out for the best because had I believed her and driven to school I’d never have known how bad things were. But I should have taken her more seriously.
The interesting thing for me on this lesson is that I spoke to other parents on the ward, all of whom had initially dismissed their child’s concerns as an overreaction, hypercondria or attention seeking. So I wasn’t unusual when I thought she wasn’t as ill as she was saying. But it was a mistake and one that I have to accept that I made.
#4 – you will have to be brave and show courage
It’s scary seeing your child wired up to monitors. Seeing their vital statistics dropping below expected levels. Hearing alarms go off because they are don’t have enough oxygen or because their heart rate is dangerously high.
But I promise you it’s scarier for them.
It’s really important to keep children calm when they are ill. Particularly with an asthma attack. Panicking increases your breathing and heart rate so it’s not a good idea! Which meant that I had to be brave and show her that there was nothing to fear. I had to stay calm so that I could reassure her. It was important for me to have courage so that she couldn’t see the fear on my face. So I was calm. I was brave and I did have courage. All of which meant that she was reassured and could focus on resting rather than worrying.
#5 – you will realise that you take a lot for granted
Sometimes I think we don’t know how lucky we are. When I realised she needed help I never doubted that she’d get it when she got to A&E. I didn’t worry about whether or not she’d get the medicine she needed to get well. Or that she wouldn’t be able to get the right level of care or be looked after. But not everyone is so lucky.
I take it for granted that if my children are sick I can access whatever they need to get well. And that’s OK. I live in a country where that’s possible. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t walk out of the hospital today feeling enormously grateful for everything that the NHS has done for my daughter this week.
#6 – you will realise what’s important
I’ve spent the last few months getting really stressed about how my house isn’t clean. About how I find the time to work on my business. Or how I’d really like to have the money to buy some new clothes. Go on holiday or buy a new ipad.
None of that mattered when I was in the hospital. None of it. I’ve just spent pretty much three days dedicated to just being there for my daughter. Keeping her company. Making sure she’s entertained. Sleeping by her side and comforting her in the night. Everything else didn’t even come close to being a priority. Which is exactly how it should be.
#7 – you will find out what you are grateful for
I’ve no doubt that my life was made so much easier this week by those around me. My husband looked after our other 2 kids so I could focus solely on being at the hospital. Mum brought me endless bags of cheese puffs from M&S and gave both my daughter and I all the moral support we needed. My daughters dad left work early because she wanted him there and was calmer when she knew he was on his way. My sisters sent messages of support, family and friends offered to help and, even though I didn’t really need it, I knew I had people around me who would do anything they could to help us. For which I was very grateful.
I was also so very grateful for the way my daughter was looked after by the Drs and nurses. They made sure I had a bed by her side at all times. They listened to my daughter and considered her wellbeing every step of the way. The nurses patiently explained what they were doing for every procedure they did. Staff didn’t hesitate to come and check on her even when they were busy. We were entertained by “Captain Starlight” (who was hilarious) on the ward and Play leaders found my daughter activities to do to keep her occupied. Overall, all the staff at the hospital made a fairly traumatic admission so much easier – something I will always be profoundly grateful for!
And lastly, I was grateful that things weren’t worse.
The problem with being on a children’s ward is that you see some very sick children. Some of whom you know will suffer and maybe never recover. There was a tiny baby in the room next to ours who needed to get rushed to Great Ormond Street. There was a boy across from us who’s life has been permanently changed from being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Children with fevers, infections and even tumours were on the ward. I am so absolutely grateful that my daughter will make a full recovery and that my other two children are both healthy.
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