Monday, April 23, 2007

Admitted: What to Take When Your ER Visit May Become a Hospital Stay

Ranger came home from the hospital yesterday after a bout with rotavirus-related dehydration. He's back to his ornery self, so we're relieved.

Last post, we discussed preparing for and improving an ER visit, but you might want to throw a few extra items in the car if you think your child's ER sick visit may translate into a hospital stay.
  • Socks for the kiddo. Hospitals are sometimes cold, especially for little people with short circuiting bodies. If there is any chance your child will be up and walking around, bring slipper socks or socks with grippy soles (hospital floors are slick). Our local hospital requires footing offering traction before they will let an inpatient walk around at all. Your own socks are far more comfortable than the semi-disposable ones the hospital offers.
  • Snacks for you (or money for the vending machines). You won't want to leave your child alone in their room, and you may get hungry. Throw some portable, non-perishable food into your bag. This will keep you from the guilt of wanting to eat your child's food when it arrives. Don't feed your child any food you've brought in without first clearing it with medical staff, and realize this may mean you have eat it in secret to keep your toddler from melting down.
  • Clothing, bedding, and toiletries for you. Chances are, you or another caregiver are going to sleep on a chair or sofa in your child's room. Pack something that is comfortable to sleep semi-publicly. Some hospitals have blankets and pillows for families, but don't depend on it. If you don't know these items will be supplied, pack a colorful blanket and pillow for yourself. Don't forget your toothbrush!
  • For infants, a blanket, pillow, or toy that smells like home (and/or mom) can be very reassuring. (Thanks for sharing this tip, Amy!)
  • Kid entertainment. Hospitals can be boring. Jeremiah and Jenni of Z Recommends like bringing some of Z's favorite books along. They also remembered that more and more hospitals are making VCRs and DVD players more available to patients, so it may be a good idea to grab some favorite kids' viewing. We didn't take anything along, so Ranger (who never watches tv) got to watch the basketball playoffs and the Wiggles' Wiggle Bay. It was pretty weird for him as it's the first time he's ever watched tv at any length.
  • Reading material for you. Maybe you'll read it, and maybe you won't, but you may not be so lucky as to find last November's US magazine abandoned in a lounge- and the hospital novella-length privacy policy really lacks developed characters and plot.
  • Bedtime ritual stuff. At home for bedtime, we read books, sing a couple of songs, and then tuck Ranger in with a plush dog. We found ourselves without any books and no plush dog on night one. The dogeared US magazine Jim had found in the family lounge told tales of celebrity that should be inflicted upon no child, so Jim sang extra songs. Ranger's grandparents sent a plush bear the next day, so doggie got a ride through the washer at home. It can be hard to get your child to sleep in the hospital. Make your job easier by maintaining as many familiar bedtime routines as you can manage.
  • Kid toiletries and going home clothes & shoes. I speak from experience when I tell you it's sad not to have your own toiletries during a hospital stay. Not only do you feel bad, you also have to see people all the time. And, yes, hospitals can supply some of these items, but they are pale substitutes to the items you regularly use. Often you carry a pajama clad sick kiddo to the ER, remember to bring some clothes & footwear for when they're feeling well enough to leave.
  • As the Z Recommends folks reminded me, many pediatrics wards offer refrigeration facilities for breastmilk. So, if your baby is breastfeeding, you may want to pack some pumping supplies. Make sure and ask a pediatrics nurse about the availability of breastmilk storage facilities, too.
Good general hospital guidelines:
  • With pre-verbal infants and kids, the nursing staff is relying on you to tell them about your child's level of discomfort. Make sure and inform staff if you perceive a change in your child's condition or comfort level.
  • Have a pen and paper handy and write down EVERY MEDICAL QUESTION THAT CROSSES YOUR MIND. That way, when a nurse or doctor appears, you won't forget to ask something important. Seriously, write them all down. You can skip the really stupid ones when you get to ask, but they may not look so stupid when you have a professional to answer them.
  • Input & output: Make sure nursing staff knows what your child is taking in and expelling from their body. Confess if you ate your child's chicken strips.
  • If you are hungry, don't be afraid to ask the staff for options. Depending on the hospital, you may just have vending machines and a cafeteria- or there may be a family lounge with free drinks (soda & coffee, not open bar)- or you may be able to buy food for yourself from the hospital to be delivered with your child's meals. It may not be gourmet, but it is delivered.
  • Learn your nurses' names. We make sure to send a note back to the hospital about the quality of care we received (thus far, it's all been glowing). This is a way to support and encourage good service and high standards of patient care.
  • Be on your best manners. That way if a problem arises, the staff will know that you are reasonable and respectful.
  • If you are an online junkie (like most parent blog readers), ask if the hospital has wireless network access available or public computers.
  • If your sick kiddo is sleeping, look for Closed Captioning options on the tv.
  • Most pediatrics units keep kid-friendly snacks (Popsicles, Jell-O, graham crackers, etc.) at the nurse's station. They can usually find something your kiddo can eat even on dietary restriction. Don't hesitate to ask, it's actually better than giving them unapproved food.
  • It's great to have the support of friends and family, but sometimes that support is better from afar. Don't be afraid to ask visitors to leave (or have the nurses ask for you) or to end phone calls quickly. Your kid needs to recuperate and you, dear parent, need not be exhausted when you and your child return home. It's also okay to head off visitors and callers in advance by not giving out the hospital room phone number and requesting that people not visit until further notice. We made sure to request that our friends with kids at home not visit as Ranger's virus was quite contagious and we didn't want to feel responsible for anyone else getting it. You are your child's gatekeeper. Help them rest.
Now, what did we forget or not know in the first place? Please tell us!

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