Hosptial Hell

As I write this I am sitting in a well worn armchair beside a cast iron cot in St. Michaels B ward of Temple St. Children’s Hospital.
My four week old son Sam is lying, tiny and exposed, with a Canula in the back of each hand, a red light attached to his toe to monitor O2 levels and heart rate but perhaps most terrifying of all, a sensor connected to his stomach to warn staff if he stops breathing.
48 hours ago Sam was happily gurgling as I blew raspberries on his tummy and now he is lying there with mottled skin without even the energy to cry.
A simple unsettled night and day led us from a casual trip to the doctor “just to be on the safe side” to a frantic race to the hospital.
A lumbar puncture, every fluid my boy produces tested and re-tested. No one knowing what is wrong but everyone in agreement that he would have died had we not acted when we did. The non stop worries I had for my first child becoming horrifying reality for my second.
I hate this place. I hate that I am now familiar with medical terms like Canula and oxygen saturation. I hate that I feel everywhere I touch could be infected with MRSA or the Vomiting Bug which I may unknowingly pass on to my gravely ill child through a casual touch.
I hate that I metaphorically delouse myself with alcohol hand rub and antiseptic wash so that I don’t bring something nasty home to my other son.
I hate the platitudes and well meaning phrases uttered by friends and family. Don’t tell me he is going to be fine, you don’t know that. I don’t want to hear anecdotes about other peoples children who were ill and got through it. Right now, I am selfish enough not to care about any other child but my own.
I know people mean well but ,please, just ask for an update, express sympathy and leave me alone to worry over my son.
I hate the noise here. The constant beeps and whistles of the hyper expensive machines designed to monitor or prolong life. I hate the sound of other children crying inconsolably over the rattles and clangs essential to the day to day running of a hospital.
I hate being glad that the alarm sound I hear is for another child, not mine.
I hate the jealousy I feel towards the parents bringing their cured child home.
I watch other parents. The ones like me, strained and nerve fraught. Desperate for answers but afraid to ask the questions, watching as the professionals rush around trying to figure out what’s wrong.
I see the parents of children with a long term illness. Their faces a mixture of hope and resignation when they arrive and the guilt when they have to leave. It is always a shock to realise that life goes on outside the hospital as much as time stands still within.
As with so much in life, amidst all the bad I have witnessed so much good.
The parents who put their lives on hold to offer an ever present vigil at the cot side to answer any need their non professional status allows.
The seemingly tireless, ever caring nursing staff. These underpaid, overworked and ever patient heroes who provide unbelievable care and warmth despite the obstacles thrown in their path by parents, hospital management and the HSE.
The doctors and surgeons, professionally distant who betray their compassion through a gentle touch or a flash of genuine emotion in the eyes.
I was even impressed by the care shown by a maintenance man putting up a step ladder so that he would not disturb a sleeping infant.
The one emotion I feel and hate more than any other is helplessness. I sit and stare at a heart monitor and with each erratic spike of the sickly green readout an invisible cold one pierces my own heart.
All I can do to help my helpless child is watch, stay strong, stay hopeful and trust in the knowledge that he is in the best possible place being cared for by the best people.
And, of course, I pray.
You may not have uttered a prayerful word outside an All Ireland final but if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in this armchair, you will pray harder and with more fervour than the most devout pilgrim on Croagh Patrick.
I don’t care if God work his miracle through a horde of angels or a nurses gentle touch just so long as I get to bring my boy home.

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