The Aftermath of a Child's Periodic Hospital Stays

May 15, 2011 by Rieshy

I've been thinking a lot about what I noticed after our last hospital stay with our 5 year old.  The aftermath, so to speak.  I've compared it with my memory of his various hospitalizations.

Some of the commonalities after a hospital stay:
  • Trouble going to sleep
  • Trouble with scary dreams
  • Regressed social skills around peers
  • Greater dependence on adults
  • Narrowing of his food repertoire
  • A need to focus on a comfort object for security- i.e. a pillow or stuffed animal
  • Moodiness- or a general sense of being out of equilibrium
Blessedly all these things have always been temporary.  However, I have noticed that my son has less trouble "re-entering" home life and a shorter aftermath period when:

  • We keep a hospital routine as close to our home schedule as possible.  It seems to really help him to keep a normal dining schedule, rest-time, bathing and bedtime routine in the hospital.  
  • I've also learned that if I chat with the nurses and care partners I can greatly reduce the nighttime disturbances.  Small things matter- for instance we keep a blood pressure cuff on his ankle.  For some reason he can sleep right through a blood pressure check on his ankle, while one on his arm freaks him out.  Also, I do all his blood sugar pokes myself because I can do it without waking him. 
  • By coordinating all the checks we can greatly reduce the number of times people are in and out of the room.  I've learned I can just say "No, come back later," if my son needs me to.
  • If he is at all able we try to eat meals sitting at a table instead of bed.  
  • If he is at all able I try to keep up the home routine of him helping while I work, i.e. he puts away toys, stacks his books, wipes down his own food tray.
  • Our children's hospital has frequent Bear Clinics that we always try to go to.  The give each child a stuffed bear, gloves, oral syringes and other various medical apparatus and let the child play doctor.  This seems to be really important to our son.  Generally the bear comes home and is intensely cared for- for a few days. 
  • We time our discharge for as early in the day as possible.  For our son the excitement of getting to go home drains him- being drained is bad news for night time blood-sugar stability. Being drained also means more trouble sleeping.
In general the more traumatic or painful the hospital visit the longer it takes him to get back to a state of equilibrium.

Back to the stuffed hospital bear.   When I eventually find the bear lost and abandoned under the sofa I do a happy dance.  It's the surest sign that the aftermath period is over. 



Unknown said...

"When I eventually find the bear lost and abandoned under the sofa I do a happy dance. It's the surest sign that the aftermath period is over." - Double like.. I agree the surest sign he has put the hospital in another part of his mind....

Kim@stuffcould.... said...

It does sound like you have made the routine as easy as possible for yall. I am sure it is tough. You have some wonderful helps for him, like the blood pressure cup....

Dana K said...

That's really neat about the bear. I'll have to see if CHKD does anything like that once Klaw gets older.

I hope y'all are out of the hospital for a good long while, Susan.

Unknown said...

Oh you are such a wonderful momma.
I'm making plans to go to the hospital for a few days, and I am already freaking out. I can't imagine how annoying it is for a little one...or maybe I'm a big baby.
See, the thing is, my hospital is always OVER crowded and I have to share a room after my c section, which means sharing a bathroom, which means twice as many nurse visits, and an extra crying baby at night, and my husband can't sleep over and the nurses are too busy to answer your call in a timely manner...and I hate it all.

I think I need a bear clinic.

Do you have any tips for getting the nurses to like you the most? I am thinking baked goods? Not sure. This is my third go round, and I hate feeling like a "patient". I like human better. Send me your tips oh wise one.

Also I hope you don't go back to the hospital for a looong time. It seemed like you had a good run for a while, right?

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