Recently, my youngest son, only 4 years old needed emergency abdominal surgery to fix an intussusception. We were in the hospital for 6 days. While there, I learned some new things to promote healing and wellness and also had to come up with some creative ideas to keep a 4 year old entertained. I hope you never need to spend any time in a hospital with your children or any family member but since these things do happen I wanted to share my hospital stay survival tips.
Hospital Stay Survival Tips
Get creative with what you have – We used the wash basin as a car washing station. The pumping foam soap provided by the hospital made lots of bubbles and all the toy cars we brought from home went into the wash. This was also a way to encourage our son to get washed up too. He had to keep his incision dry and could only take a sponge bath. He was a little apprehensive about this but once he saw all the fun to be had washing cars and that is was easy he agreed to get a bath. We later used the same wash basin to grow snakes, you know the kind that grow when you soak them in water. We let them soak overnight and the next day when I needed something to entertain him we were able to check on the snakes to see how big they had grown. If you have a girl, you could always give a doll a bath or clean jewelry in the basin. And I am sure they make the grow toys in some shape that every child would enjoy.
Ask the nurse for straws and cotton balls – when you have a procedure done with anesthesia and then have to stay in bed for an extended period of time, gunk can build up in your lungs mostly because you are not taking deep breaths regularly and filling your lungs to capacity. You might notice a rattle when your child breathes or some coughing that sounds phlegmy. There are some really simple tricks to get the lungs some exercise and avoid complications. Ask the nurse for some cotton balls and straws. Line up the cotton balls on a pillow on your child’s lap or better yet if they are out of bed line them up on a table. Have your child use the straw to blow the cotton balls off the table. You can also do a tug of war type battle and see which of you can blow the cotton ball off the other person’s side of the table. The straw can also be used to blow bubbles in a small amount of liquid in a cup. This is normally not something I allow my children to do so that made it extra fun and easy to get those lungs working. You don’t even have to tell your children why you are playing with straws, cotton balls, and bubbles. Just know that this is very good activity to get your child healing and feeling better.
Soft music or white noise – Hospitals are noisy stressful places which is counter productive to resting and healing. There are machines beeping, people talking, announcements over the PA, and rolling beds and furniture. Luckily our hospital had the C.A.R.E. channel on the tv which played only soothing music and also had guided meditations. We turned it on all night and it helped us sleep because it masked most of the noises going on inside and outside our room. The soothing music quickly became a cue for my little one to settle down and rest as we turned it on for brief periods during the day as well. If you do not have access to the C.A.R.E. Channel at your hospital you could use your phone or other device to play soft music.
Lip balm and lotion – Hospitals are dry environments intentionally but this can dry out your lips and skin quickly. Your lips will be especially dry if you are unable to have liquids for a period of time. For kids it is always fun to get something flavored or with a favorite character on the label. Don’t forget about yourself though you will want something to soothe your dry lips and skin too.
Schedule visitors – People will want to come visit and they will want to know when is a good time. Take advantage of all the people who want to pour love on you and schedule them when it is best for you and your family. Everyday, my son wanted to know who was coming that day. It gave him something to look forward to. We scheduled visitors for before or after my son’s mealtimes. Easy for me to remember and also easy for small children to relate to. One o’clock doesn’t always mean much to a four year old but after lunch does. This also serves another purpose. My son was on a liquid diet for 2 days so we did not want to eat “real food” in front of him. With visitors coming near meal times we were able to step out of the room and grab something to eat knowing he was entertained and had someone he knew in the room with him in case he needed something.
Ask your visitors to bring things – Everyone will ask what they can do to help or if you need anything. Let them help you. Ask them to bring grow snakes or toy cars or lip balm. Ask them to bring you water or coffee. Ask them for crayons or markers and a coloring book. Chances are they will bring something even if you don’t ask so tell them what you need. You will feel better and your visitor will love knowing they were able to do something to help.
Take Care of You – Last but not least, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself. There is a reason why airline stewards instruct adults to put there mask on first. If you fall ill you will not be able to care for your child. Drink plenty of fluids, wash your hands frequently, sleep when your child sleeps, and take a little something with you that makes you feel human and normal. For me, I asked my husband to bring in my warming face wash from home. When I took a shower in the hospital I used the face wash and it was just a little touch of home and my regular routine to help me keep my sanity. Maybe you have a favorite foot scrub or fragrance or hot tea drink. It is ok for you to ask someone to bring something for you.