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Surviving Hospitalizations in a Pandemic, by Heidi Barrett

If your child is facing a hospitalization during a pandemic, do the responsible thing and exclaim that going to the hospital is a thing of the past. If you insist that your child has to be hospitalized, may the odds be ever in your favor! Seriously though, if your child is sick, please call your doctor and find out the next step. A doctor last week told me that run of the mill Emergency room visits are down in children because they are not being exposed to all the usual germs at school. Still, the hospital is seeing a significant upswing in seriously sick children because the parents are waiting too long to get their child seen because of fear of the virus. Do not let the fear of COVID-19 be a thing that keeps you from seeking medical care for your family. 

I am typing this from my 13-year old daughter’s hospital bed. This has been her third hospitalization since COVID-19 hit our state. For better or worse, in my family, we are experienced with lots of hospitalizations. It is what happens when you have unique kids. You too might have many admissions under your belt. But things during a pandemic are very different from regular times. The hospital needs to make sure that your child is coronavirus free and that you are coronavirus free. (if either of you or your child are not COVID-19 free then precautions need to be taken to keep everyone safe.) 

As of today, every children’s hospital in the USA is letting a parent/guardian/family member stay with the sick child as long as the caregiver is healthy. In regular times, having a child in the hospital can be trying. Add a pandemic, and things just became that much more complicated. It is quite like when putting together an Ikea piece of furniture, a foreign language is involved and no one is quite sure how all the pieces fit together. The two most significant parts of advice I can give is to be patient and keep calm. Every day brings a new realization like, why did I eat that last bit of cake? Do these jeans make my ankles look fat? Sorry I digressed- discoveries are coming out every day with regards to COVID-19 (at times, conflicting information).  It is a novel virus, so the science is only as good as the data gathered.  Rules of the hospitals can change daily. It can leave you feeling very overwhelmed and frustrated, especially while caring for a sick child in the hospital. If a rule at your hospital truly does not work for you (and it is not misplaced anger), talk to the charge nurse, your doctor, or social worker. 

At our hospital a month ago, only one parent/caregiver was allowed at the hospital with the child. It seemed like a good rule when somebody wrote it down on a whiteboard. (Obviously written by someone who was childless or never had a child in the hospital before.)  It is all hands on deck when a child is in the hospital. One parent may cover the morning shift at the hospital while another parent is at work; another parent might be better at the bedtime routine at home, leaving a different parent at the hospital. The hospitals changed the rules pretty quickly to allow two caregivers/parents to be with the child at all times and/or being able to switch off between the two caregivers. 

Things generally move slowly at a hospital. It is all about hurry up and wait and then a flurry of activity. Add COVID-19 to the mix, and things come to a grinding halt. The specialist that your child might need to see while in the hospital might not be available because they have been switched to telemedicine. Testing your child needs to have done might have limited hours during the day, so what normally can be done in an hour has spiked to a day long wait. If you feel like your child is getting sicker in the hospital, know almost every hospital for children deploys the Pediatric Rapid Response Team (RRT) that is used when a child is deteriorating. You, the parent as the caregiver that knows your child the best, are allowed to call in an RRT even if a nurse or doctor tells you your child is okay. This system was developed when Sorel King’s 18-month-old daughter Josie died of dehydration in the hospitals because Josie King’s doctor would not listen to her mom; more information can be found here.  RRT phone numbers should be found on the wall in your child’s room. If it is not there ask the charge nurse for the number. 

If this is your child’s first time being in the hospital, I am genuinely sorry.  Being in the hospital is hard enough then add the stress of COVID-19, and it can be completely overwhelming.  Remember to take care of yourself. If you need help with anything, please use the resources the hospital offers. My previous post 'Surviving Hospitalizations' offers tips and suggestions for when your child has been hospitalized (during pandemic free times). Please do not forget to call your parish to add your child to the prayer list and if appropriate having your child receive anointing of the sick

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