More Than Just Another Routine

Everything was still newspaper gray and I had never known that mornings could exist without the busy traffic. Dad put on Magic 106.7 and I hummed along to one of my favorite songs at the time, 'Everything I do' by Bryan Adams. My toes pointed upwards inches away from where the seat ended, the tips of my Stride Rites swayed to the beat - I was on my way to get my tibia broken in 3 places and have a piece of metal threaded through the bone, you wouldn't have known otherwise because I was happy as could be. Dad chuckled to himself as he watched my feet dancing away to beckon the rising sun.

It doesn't matter whether it's to the dentist, physical therapy, rodding surgery, or just a routine check-up - I always had/have my little rituals whenever I went to Children's Hospital in Boston. Even if I tenderly held a broken arm with one hand, we would get to the hospital a little early so I could grab a snack from the CVS in the lobby and go to the first floor Patient Entertainment Center to play a game of Miss Pacman. (If I was about to go in for an operation mom would buy me some apple juice and read the newspaper while I played game after game).
I have grown alongside Children's Hospital. I have changed and gotten older as the building has gone through renovations and redecorations. If I were to stroll through the building now I could tell you what used to be where and exactly what it used to look like 10 years ago. As it has attained the latest precision in medical care I have acquired more knowledge, and as its staff has become more sensitive to understanding what 'full medical care' means I have come to appreciate all that goes into each doctor's visit. There are too many life lessons I have learned in the silence of a waiting room, in the seconds before my doctor turns on the light table when he puts the x-ray up, sometimes even in the hazy smog of the minutes waking up in the recovery room after an operation - there is always something I am able to learn or teach myself as a distraction from the pain.

Other Suggestions to Ease Hospital Visits:

  • If you have a young child try to take the same route to the hospital every time. Placing him or her in as much familiarity as s/he goes into, what may be, a scary 'unknown' will go along way - and it is also a good time to chat with your child about the appointment!
  • I know that the last thing any parent wants to do is spend MORE time in the hospital or waiting room with their kid. But in my experience easing me into uncomfortable situations has been less jarring for me. Even if you could get to the appointment a couple minutes early (and aren't doctors usually late anyway??) your child might be able to settle in a bit and try to relax. 
  • If your child needs to stay over night at the hospital plan to allow the kid to pack a small bag of toys, books, handheld games, or stuffed animals. 
  • Also, if appropriate let your child's friends/classmates know that s/he will be in the hospital. I have received too many Get Well cards from supportive classmates and teachers, all of which I have saved and laughed about. When your child is older let their friends come visit! Some hospitals even allow email messages to be sent to the department's front desk and it will be printed and given to your child each morning. 
  • Calm yourself! As a kid at the hospital I was usually unable to move much which ended up honing my observation skills. I would immediately know when mom was about to cry or what it meant when dad grew solemnly quiet. Don't hide these emotions from your child but if possible try to incorporate a sense of 'everything will be okay' into your worries. Kids become stronger when they see and experience their parents' vulnerabilities - they pick it up quickly and you will be surprised at how much bonding you can do with your child's (more than) innocent reaction to the situation.
  • If you are there because a fracture had just occurred, LISTEN to the child - and it doesn't matter how young the kid might be. With many OI patients sometimes bone density is too low for a clear picture to be seen on the x-ray. Many microscopic or hair-line fractures will be shrouded in a vast of black and misty white on the 2-D frame, but if you child is clearly in pain - know that images, as high tech they might be, might not be revealing the whole story. I found that it helped me when my parents and orthopedic doctor allowed me to help hold the fractured area and point to where it hurts before any x-ray had been taken. You could even turn it into a guessing game!
"Is mom here? Or did you come by yourself on The Ride?"
"By myself." I answered timidly. As I looked at my doctor he smiled kindly at me, I wondered if like me, he was also remembering the last 22 years of my visits to him. 
"Still playing Miss Pacman I see!" He laughed as he noticed the imprint of start button on my thumb. I nodded and smiled back, I knew everything was going to be okay. 

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2 Responses to More Than Just Another Routine

  1. Just wanted to say how utterly correct you are in the above post. Extremly helpful for anyone who needs a few tips whether young or old. As a 44 years old OI sufferer with two children, one of which also has OI, you have put in print exactly how our lives are reagrding hospitals. I wish you well in your life and will follow your blog now that I have found it!

  2. I want to say that if the person being hospitalized is on any medication, take said meds with you to the hospital. While the hospital will prefer to administer drugs from their own pharmacy, they aren't always timely about getting their schedules straight. I've been hospitalized and had the hospital take hours in getting meds to me, sometimes with negative results.


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