Your Child is sick in Hospital. Survival basics.

Your Child is sick in Hospital. Survival basics. Part 1

Having your child in hospital is scary. The noise, the smell, the feeling of helplessness, the unknown. What do you do when your child is sick in Hospital.
The last week in hospital moved to Monash.
Miss S’ last week in hospital at Monash Children’s

We were blessed with a third child; a girl after two boys, who unfortunately was diagnosed prenatally with a heart condition called Transposition of the Greater Arteries. She needed open heart surgery at just 4 weeks old. Post surgery she had complications, which resulted in a six and half week stay in hospital – ten days of that in the Intensive Care Unit. We were entirely thrown, the original time frame we were given for recovery post surgery was 14 to 16 days.

I have been lucky enough to have worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) for several years in the education resource centre as part of the video team. What makes me even more lucky, is that is how my wife and I met. So now seeing both sides of the hospital, I want to try and give some advice to others, while telling our story.

Most hospitals are not like the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, it is a new, purpose built hospital that was completed a couple years ago now. Around 85% of all rooms are single rooms, which is great for sleep and privacy, but you do sort of feel a little isolated.
Our daughter also spent a week in Monash Children’s Hospital, which is very run down, however has much more of a community feel to it and is less isolating than the Children’s, we were able to interact with other parents and children there. They are building a new Monash Children’s Hospital, due for completion in 2017.
Here are my tips for coping if you find your child in hospital;

Holding her for the first time in over a month.
Holding her for the first time in over a month.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCT!!! I’ll repeat, as it is the most important thing of all. Trust your instinct. No doctor, nurse or specialist is going to know you child like you do. If your child is behaving or reacting abnormally, they won’t know. They only see glimpses of your child and have no idea what is normal for them. You may feel overwhelmed by the whole situation, tired and emotional, but stick to your guns.

After her open heart surgery, Miss S kept having tummy issues, and was not pooing normally. I kept telling nurses, doctors, anyone that would listen really, about her poo not being right (I’m a dad, I say poo, I’m sure not going to say bowel movement). One nurse even said I was so obsessed she was going to get me the poo chart. I was told by senior nursing staff it was normal because of medication and reduced food intake. Unfortunately I was right.

When she finally came home, she had three emergency room visits in just two months, the final one via ambulance Easter Sunday night. She underwent another surgery, this time to remove a section of her lower intestines, resulting in her needing a colostomy bag for six weeks before a reversal operation could be performed (that was a learning curve). If you think something is wrong with your child, persist until you find someone who will listen to you and investigate further.

They are only human. Following on from trusting your instinct, I have to point out, that as good as any doctor, surgeon, nurse or specialist is, they are only human. I believe anyone that has chosen a career in taking care of others are angels. They are over worked. They may miss something, or rely on medication a little to much.

Little Miss S, on her second emergency admission, was given too much Morphine.  My poor wife was there when this happened, as I went home from the emergency department as I started to feel unwell. They were finally moved from emergency to the ward at about 2:30AM.

Exhausted Wonder-wife By Miss S' bedside in ICU.
Exhausted Wonder-wife By Miss S’ bedside in ICU.

Now somewhere along the line, the nurses on the ward told my wife that Miss S was in pain and needed morphine. She disagreed, but unable to think straight after spending all day and half the night in emergency, was persuaded that it was best for our daughter. Both my wife and Miss S were in quite a state the following day.

Once again, stick to your guns and know that the people advising you are only human, and may be just as exhausted as you are.

Knowledge is power. This is not true for all people, however for some, the more that you know and understand, the less scared and more reassured you feel.

Ask questions and find out as much as you can. By the same token, DON’T rely on Dr Google. Ask the professionals who are there to answer your questions, Googling will just scare the beejeebes out of you and most likely give you incorrect and unreliable information.

Little Miss S’ cardiologist, put us in contact with a mother and daughter before Miss S was even born. The daughter had gone though the same surgery 15 years ago, with the same surgeon. We were unsure if we wanted to meet with them at first, but it turned out to be a great relief to talk about the whole process, and speak to this 15 year old girl who was happy, healthy, well spoken and active. This small thing gave us great strength.

After her Tummy operations. You can see how much better she looks.
After her Tummy operations. You can see how much better she looks.

You may not be so fortunate in knowing about your child’s condition prior to having to face it, however don’t let that stop you from asking questions and gathering information. It helped us to feel less powerless in a situation where we felt as though we had no control and helped to remove the fear of the unknown.

There are more tips on how to survive a hospital stay in the second part (it was getting a bit long)

Till next time.

Dad +three

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Demos Karkazis

I'm a husband and father of three. I work hard and try and be the best dad I can be (not always a success)

Latest posts by Demos Karkazis (see all)

  • David Hawkins

    Amazing article Demos! Great advice and real insight into your experience of a parent’s nightmare.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I have no doubt you’ll keep some other parents feeling sane and not alone with it.
    What an intense/scary/stressful time that must have been. I cannot imagine.
    The one time my son was in hospital was the first 3 days of his life for a minor (for him) infection he’d breathed in while I was in labour. I couldn’t be there as he had to be transferred alone to a hospital better equipped an hour’s drive away. I was not well enough to see him, although my husband tried to be there as much as he could. It’s amazing how much trust you have to put into those angels who care for our babies.
    Love your advice.

    • Demos Karkazis

      Thank you for sharing your story, not being able to see your child must have been terrible. No matter how long the hospital stay, or for what reason, it is always an extremely difficult time.
      So glad you liked the advice.

  • What a fantastic post Demos – thanks for sharing your story and advice. So sorry your little one had to go through all of this. Your comment “anyone that has chosen a career in taking care of others are angels” is spot on. After few trips to the hospital for minor incidents (croup, a broken arm and tonsils/adenoids/grommets) I am in awe on the work the staff at children’s hospitals do. Looking forward to Part 2 and best wishes to you, your family and Miss S.

    • Demos Karkazis

      Thank you Tash.
      Yes, careers are very special people. I was lucky when I worked at the RCH I got to see first hand how wonderful they are.
      I hope you enjoy part two as much as.

  • carolyn

    Bringing up two children and one grandchild, we had our share of hospital visits. Your post is thoughtful, and well done. Could be used as a primer for first time hospital visitors.
    Carolyn in Canada.

  • Amazingly heart-felt writing! Nothing scares me more than the helplessness I feel around a sick kid.

  • Far out Demos, I am so sorry for what you guys have been through and for your little girl, but wow, how lucky she is to have such incredible parents. I think having your child sick and helpless is quite possibly the worst part of parenting… I wish you guys so much health and happiness in the years to come xx

  • What a generous thing to share, Demos. I’m really sorry that you have been forced to have such an intimate knowledge of the children’s ward, but what a nice thing to do for other parents who have to go through this. Best wishes to your darling daughter’s full recovery from her heart condition. x

  • Demos Karkazis

    Thank you everyone for your kind words and best wishes.
    Your heart felt comments reassure me that this message will make it to the people that need it most.