Throughout my daughter's hospitalization, one thing has become crystal clear:
Back in the 90's, I watched too damn much "E. R."
I am a pretty visual person, and there are any number of episodes I wish I could go back in time to un-see.
This is not actually a new phenomenon. (Ever since I started having babies, for instance, there was THAT ONE IN PARTICULAR. You know which one I mean, I bet.).
Not that it wasn't a great show, some of the best writing I remember ever seeing on broadcast television. It's just that I wish someone had issued me a warning: "Almost 20 years from now, you will be a parent, and your small daughter will be hospitalized after emergency surgery, and every time some good news comes along and everything is going fine and smoothly, you are going to reflexively expect that this is actually a sign that very soon, the music will pick up and it is ALL GOING TO GO WRONG, right before the commercial break, and so you will be constantly jumpy and looking for foreshadowing around every corner, and it will be all because of this show."
In truth there is no soundtrack here, no musical score or laugh track. And this floor is pretty quiet and boring (and frankly, so was the ER while we were in it; the most interesting thing was that we ran into a family we knew, who was there because the teen daughter had broken her leg).
Other expectations that turned out to be inaccurate or at least out of date:
- There is no all-night diner visible through the rain across the street. If you forget to get dinner before the cafeteria closes, it's vending-machine burritos for you.
- It turns out that to be realistic, all the scenes involving sick children should have spent approximately 75 percent of the time showing parents attempting to convince the child that she really will feel better if she will just swallow the oral pain meds, using techniques such as "You can wash it down with any clear fluid you want," "It will hurt more later if you don't," and "Did you know that this medicine works SO WELL that they have to lock it up so people don't steal it?"
- So it used to be that the siblings of the hospitalized child were made jealous to hear about all the ice cream that the young convalescent got to eat. Today they are jealous because she gets her own loaner iPad preloaded with games and apps.
Jokes aside, though, I will add here that Children's Hospital in Minneapolis really has been completely awesome. Everybody has been just great. The nurses and the aides and the anesthesiologist and the ER doctors and the housekeeping staff -- every one of them. I have no doubt that my daughter is getting top-notch care, and I can tell you that they have worked hard to give us the information we ask for, to listen to the information we have, to follow our cues about how to talk to our daughter about what choices she has and what choices she doesn't have and what is going to happen and what we do and don't know. We have been an equal partner in making decisions about how her pain is to be medicated. We have also been visited from time to time by staff who are monitoring hospital practices as part of systematic quality control efforts -- for example, a team that checked for skin problems like bedsores and IV issues, looking for hospital-wide issues. The inpatient rooms are spacious and comfortable with a decent bed for parents to stay in (if I was not pregnant, it would almost be wide enough for both of us to stay together in it.) And I see good hand washing practice, and efforts to time procedures and checks so that they can be convenient and comfortable.
All in all, things could be worse. I am feeling grateful.