Last week, for the first time in months, Cameron was admitted to the hospital. Oh, we’ve come close a few times recently, only to be sent home at the last minute, with instructions to return if he worsened. This time Cam got his ticket to the respiratory floor, identical to the surgery floor, except our visitors each get yellow paper gowns and masks.
Oh, you know I missed it!
The Children’s Hospital Resort is our home away from home, a place we spent many nights the first two years of Cameron’s illness. And although many would think the hospital a miserable place to stay, the amenities are not to be denied. The endless supply of free coffee, ice water and graham crackers. Free cable and movie channel, with unlimited time to watch (though I absolutely cannot watch Frozen again or I may suffer permanent brain damage myself). The extra-firm sofa bed that everyone knows is good for the back. No need to cook, though the room service french fries tend to be cold and soggy by the time they reach us on the 9th floor. And no need to do laundry, just slip on your flip-flops and traipse down the hall to the supply closet for all the freshly washed blankets and pillow cases you could ever want.
I missed the company. The endless parade of nurses, nurse’s aides and respiratory therapists, each with their own energy and humor, most of them eager to talk and joke while taking Cam’s abnormally low temperature, happy to bring me an extra syringe or diaper since I always forget something.
I missed the residents and fellows, who always look so young to me now, fresh-faced and idealistic, with their newly-rehearsed questions and treatment plans. My questions seem to stump them now, and I try not to enjoy that flicker of fear in their eyes before they rattle off some fancy doctor words and promise to talk to their attending for me. Sometimes I feel bad that I make them nervous, but after all, I’ve been there. In my day job, I still face down angry pet parents, demanding to know why their dog or cat is still sick or why it costs so much to help them, why sometimes things end badly despite everyone’s efforts. Don’t worry, I’m always patient and kind to the residents, because I know not every parent they talk to will be.
And of course, I missed the attending doctors. The specialists. The movers and the shakers. The People Who Can Get Things Done. I know I’m lucky to see one or two of them per twenty-four-hours in the clinker, and their time is short, so I have my questions ready. Specific and focused, to find the shortest possible path to Cam’s well-being. They seem to appreciate my brevity, eager to form a plan and move on to the next patient. Most of the time in the hospital is spent waiting on these bosses, and most of the time they show up when I’m in the bathroom or not wearing a bra. Still, we get things done.
Most of all I missed the hope. Any time we’re in the hospital, we’ve had some kind of frustration or setback in Cam’s treatment, some kind of brick wall into which we have crashed head-on. So with every admittance, we find a renewed sense of optimism. New faith that we’ll get a doctor that can help us figure out what went wrong, schedule that study that breaks open the case or prescribe the medication that helps all of us- but especially Cam- breathe easier.
That hope is like a drug. It’s the hope that Cam will be okay, that he will get past this to grow into a happy, healthy, almost normal kid that gets me up in the morning. And like a drug, I need bigger and bigger doses of the hope to keep me moving. The hospital stays, with the sense of urgency as I pack my sweatpants and toothbrush, followed by hours and hours of boredom, waiting to reach whatever parameter it is that the medical team has set, always resets the bar. Maybe this time, Cam will get better for real. Maybe this time in the hospital will grease the wheels just hard enough to get the medical machine rolling again. Because sometimes, at home in the middle of the night, holding a crying, coughing disabled toddler, I wonder who’s still thinking about us.
Every night in the hospital is a new hope Cameron won’t need to come back ever again (although I would miss the coffee machine!).
Maybe this visit is the last visit.
This time we spent one night and a long day then went home, after I had to argue a little with the hapless residents, who sent in their bosses to act like that’s what they had in mind the whole time. Cam and I were exhausted. And hopeful. We slept the next night in our own beds and woke up in the morning somewhat refreshed, Cam ready to scoot around on his own floor, this time attached to an oxygen tank, and me ready to get busy. Over the next few days, I will leave messages, send emails, and negotiate with schedulers and nurses, until Cam is seen by the right people and prescribed the right medications. He will get in for the appropriate studies sooner rather than later, and he will be just fine.
Hey, I don’t want you to worry! Because Cameron is a tough kid and he has a family who loves him, a smart medical team and a mommy who is high on hope.
Seriously. We’ve got this.