Yesterday I spent most of the day at the children’s hospital – it turns out Birdy had tonsilitis. And while everything went really well, I always find I’m particularly drained and exhausted after a day at the hospital. So when I got home yesterday I did something I hardly ever do. I went out for a walk by myself to recharge the batteries.
It was lovely just to have 20 minutes of peace and quiet, especially after a day of quite full-on caring for a sick kid. But I had this really interesting moment where I was trying to cross the road at a busy roundabout. It’s not actually a pedestrian crossing but one of those pedestrian islands. Anyway, I just stood there for ages before I could get across the road. And it occurred to me that for the past three years I’ve always have a pram or a toddler on tricycle and cars just stop and wave you across when they see you have a young child. It was really bizarre to realize that without a pram, nobody stops for you.
I think that children and babies break down a lot of barriers. If you got out with a baby you suddenly find yourself having sympathetic conversations with total strangers in lifts and toilet queues and parents’ rooms. It usually just starts with a smile and a simple comment, like, ‘Oh he’s teething’. Or ‘She looks tired’ and then suddenly you have this instant bond. But it’s not just the mother’s club. Often it’s grandparents or Aunties who comment as well. They’ll say “Oh I’ve got a granddaughter that age and she does that too.” And if you add into the mix a fairy dress, a painted face or a big ice-cream, suddenly everybody’s smiling at you and making little comments. I just think people are friendlier and more helpful to people with babies and young children.
What really got me thinking about how children can be an icebreaker was my day at the hospital. If people are friendlier to children, you can double it when you’re talking about sick children. Yesterday people were opening doors for me, offering to help with my bags, offering to watch my child while I went to the bathroom. It wasn’t just one person, it happened repeatedly. Normally in Sydney there just isn’t a culture of talking to strangers, let alone offering to help, but in a place full of sick kids, everyone’s suddenly the Good Samaritan. I think it’s lovely that children have the capacity to bring people together and bring out the best of them. It’s just a pity it took a bout of tonsilitis to experience it!
Have you experienced this kind of goodwill? Do cars stop more readily when you’re pushing a pram? Have total strangers offered to help you at the airport, train station or hospital? Have you found yourself exchanging knowing smiles with other Mums or having conversations with strangers in the lift or the parents’ room?
One of the ironies about being a blogger is that just when life gets most busy, most hectic, most interesting, you find yourself with no time for blogging. I didn’t manage to write last week because I spent three days at Westmead Children’s Hospital. Birdy had a cyst on her chest that got infected. The cyst has always been there, but when she was younger it was barely noticeable. Then last Saturday it just suddenly swelled up to the size of a golf ball. It was really quite alarming. So we were referred to Westmead Children’s Hospital. The first thing they did was put her on antibiotics to try to bring the infection under control, then they had to drain the cyst and then in a month or so they’ll take it out altogether.
We finally got our operation last Friday after waiting around all day Thursday. It was only because more urgent cases were coming in that we kept getting bumped. First they were going to do the operation at 2, then at 4, then they were talking about 6.30pm, then 7. And then a baby came in who couldn’t breathe so then they said they’d do it at 9pm, then a child came in with an obstructed airway so after that they sent us home. It was a long time for a child to sit around at hospital without any food or drink, but to be honest, by the end of the day I was probably more exhausted and upset than she was. I shed a few tears as I waited for my husband to pick us up late in the evening.
So we were back the next morning at 8am, and at 10.30am they came to collect Birdy for theatre. As soon as my husband put on the hat and gown (the scrubs) she lost the plot – just went hysterical. And right before she went under, she started kicking her legs. The anesthetist said it’s a normal response but it looks quite distressing to see a child crying and thrashing their legs around (so my husband tells me, I wasn’t actually there). When she woke up she was quite hysterical, which is apparently also common with children who have night terrors. So it took her about an hour to calm down, but once she calmed down then she was fine. Yesterday we went back for a checkup and everything’s healing up really nicely, which is great. The only downside is that we’ve got to do it all again in four weeks’ time.
Before I go, I just have to say how great the Westmead Children’s Hospital is, and how friendly all the staff and volunteers were. If you happen to live in Sydney and have to take a child to hospital, the Children’s Hospital is such a nice environment to go to. The toys, the murals, the climbable sculptures – all these little touches make the kids feel at home. Yesterday morning Birdy woke up and exclaimed excitedly, “Dad I’m going back to the hospital today!” like it was a big adventure. What more could you ask for?
Have you taken your child to hospital for an operation? How did it go? How did your child cope with the hospital environment? How did you cope with seeing your child in pain?