This Mother’s Day, I wanted to share a little bit of my experience of having had a sick child stay in the hospital.
Vishnu was admitted into the hospital at just 8 days old, lethargic, pretty much unresponsive, and suffering from seizures. For the first couple of days we had no clue what was wrong with our baby and by the time we finally had a diagnosis we weren’t even sure if he was going to make it. We received a lot of bad news before we heard any good news. We put our faith in the hands of God and Vishnu’s amazing team of doctors – a pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, endocrinologist, cardiologist, and a consultant from Sick Kids who gave him the best care possible. I couldn’t do anything else but hold and comfort my son, and wipe my tears as they fell.
Vishnu was in acute care for over two weeks until his significantly low calcium levels reached normal range, and the seizures stopped. He was diagnosed with hypocalcemia, amongst other things, but the cause was unclear. He underwent testing after testing, and one by one conditions were ruled out. The wait for results after each test, was unbearable. While we were in acute care, we had to make do with one pull-out chair and no bathroom. I had to walk to the other side of the pediatric unit to use the visitor’s bathroom which was a challenge due to the complications I had suffered during pregnancy and giving birth just 8 days prior. I was prescribed oxycodone for pain yet there was nothing that could take away the pain of seeing my baby suffer. I had hardly any sleep because I was too scared to sleep. Vishnu would have a seizure, machines would beep, nurses and doctors would come running in, and on top of that he had regular vital checks and testing at all hours of the night.
Vishnu had to have blood drawn three times a day. Most times he required double heel pricks. We could never be sure when the nurse would come to draw blood, so I didn’t leave acute care to use the bathroom, get tea or something to eat in the hospital cafeteria unless his father was also there. Unfortunately, his father couldn’t be there with me all the time, because he had a job to keep and needed to provide for us. We went through a lot of money buying food and paying for hospital parking, and later paying for all of Vishnu’s medications, most of which was not entirely covered by our insurance. It was only after being transferred to an actual room, that happened to be right in front of the Ronald McDonald Charity Family room, that I started leaving Vishnu’s side when he was asleep, to make tea for myself.
I remember how helpless I felt watching my five-pounder going through multiple pokes for IV and blood, EEG’s, ultrasounds, x-rays, and scans. He was often held down, legs and arms taped to the table so he wouldn’t curl up as newborns do and move. I had to rip off so much tape off him that by the end he was basically hair-free on his arms and legs. I say rip because there was no other way to take the tape off – the nurses and I had tried everything else first. As much as your heart hurts, you cannot do anything but put on a brave, smiling face and try to comfort your child.
While Vishnu was hospitalized, our family unit struggled. We were very fortunate that Akshaya and Udayan were able to stay with my parents overnight for almost a month, but within the first week Akshaya’s kindergarten teacher notified me that she was unhappy, withdrawn, and not responding well, despite our attempts to keep things somewhat “normal” for them. I didn’t want my older kids to spend too much with Vishnu until we knew for sure that he would make it. Even then, I refused to bring the older kids to visit him because I felt that it would be overwhelming for them to see him and other children hooked up to machines. Instead, I would come home in the evening after Vishnu’s bloodwork was complete and on weekends to spend time with Akshaya and Udayan and give my parents a break. After dinner my dad would come pick up the kids and drop me off back at the hospital before doors closed for the night. This was our life for almost a month. Even so, we were one of the more fortunate ones.
We were fortunate because we had a caring pediatrician who gave us the option of taking Vishnu to Sick Kids, or staying at Centenary to receive care. We chose to stay at Centenary because I also had to consider and be close to my other two children, who needed me as well. I don’t know how we would have managed otherwise. However, many families have no choice – their child is too sick to receive care anywhere but Sick Kids Hospital.
Every Mother’s Day since I had Vishnu, I cannot help but think I was so close to losing a child had it not been for the excellent medical care that Vishnu received. The Sick Kids Mom Strong ad really gets to me – I cannot help but hurt for all the mothers that have lost a child or have a chronically-ill child in the hospital. As heartbreaking as the ad is, it also sheds light on the painful reality of some mothers and pays tribute to their strength. It also gives us the opportunity to help a mother, father, caregiver, and family stay strong for the sake of their child.
As much as I love celebrating and honouring my mother on Mothers Day, I also feel the need to do what I can to help another mother. This year for Mother’s Day I purchased a Mothers Day Gift Set from Sick Kids. The money will go to a fund which will allow families to spend quality time together inside and outside of the hospital and for arts and crafts supplies for children to make cards for their mothers. There are also other gifts that you may purchase such as a glider chair, toys, parking passes, and more. To learn more about how a donation helps kids and parents, click here. The #Momstrong campaign is a great way to pay tribute to your own strong mom by giving a donation that will help a mom with a sick child persevere.
Please check out Sick Kid’s Get Better GIfts if you are interested in making a donation.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there. Your love, strength, and care makes our world a better place!
– Modern Day Brown Mom