It’s rare to think of hospitals as a place of joy, but they can be. I gave birth to both of my beautiful daughters at our local hospital and I struggle to think of two more joyous occasions in my life.
But children’s hospitals present more of a challenge on the finding joy front.
Eight weeks after the fairytale birth of my daughter Summer, a quick visit to my GP – intended to reassure me that her soaring temperature was nothing to worry about, ended in a not so quick trip to the Sydney Children’s Hospital.
I was completely in shock. Parenting the second time round is in many ways a lot easier – you’re not as paranoid about safety, sleeping, eating and pooing, and you’re less alarmed by rashes, runny noses and temperatures – even soaring ones.
As I drove from my GPs to the hospital I struggled to make sense of what was happening. I’d been strongly advised that I didn’t have time for the 15-minute detour to my home to collect a few necessities. I kept asking myself, how sick is she if 15 minutes is critical? And what if I hadn’t taken her to my GP – I’d only done so because it was Friday and I was concerned that if she worsened over the weekend it might be hard to see a doctor. I really hadn’t been that worried about her. I was now.
Driving, while crying, and at the same time piecing together the picture for disbelieving husband, the world suddenly felt very unfamiliar.
I parked in the same spot my husband had two months earlier when rushing me in heavy labour to the women’s hospital. I raced through the maze of corridors with Summer in my arms, physically lost and emotionally distraught. I was vaguely aware of people watching us. We finally found where we needed to be – a million miles away from the car park and even further from normality.
Summer and I were both treated with the upmost respect and care, which was important, because although she was the patient and obvious priority, I was extremely scared and appreciated the sensitivity of everyone who was trying to help us.
Summer was admitted to the hospital and underwent a number of invasive tests in order to rule out life-threatening conditions like Meningococcal. Every time she cried, I cried, and then some.
Three days later she was discharged, the source of her fever unknown. Reassuringly, everything that could be done had been done and we at least knew all the things that hadn’t caused her illness.
The Sydney Children’s Hospital took every precaution possible in caring for Summer. Seemingly no stone was left unturned in her treatment and we were beyond grateful for the services provided – never more so than five days after her discharge when her fever reappeared and we found ourselves back at the hospital.
We underwent the same tests, spoke to many of the same doctors and left the hospital three days later with the same outcome. Summer was young and had most likely, and unluckily, contracted the same virus as the week before.
Ironically, as I write this, more than 12 months after Summer’s two hospital stays, she is being treated as an outpatient of the Sydney Children’s Hospital. A recent visit to our GP resulted in yet another referral to the hospital and although fortunately this time she didn’t require admission, we have been visiting the hospital every few days for specialist consultations.
Summer is and will be okay, and we are so much more fortunate than the parents of children still in the hospital.
There is no real way to describe the gratitude and reverence we feel towards everyone at the Sydney Children’s Hospital. And that’s where we’ve found our joy; in the reassuring knowledge that children’s hospitals are there if you need them.
The Gold Week Telethon is on Monday 11 June, supporting Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. Tune in to Channel Nine, WIN or NBN, or go to www.goldweek.org.au.
Jodi Wadling is a freelance writer who started her business Owlphabet in order to spend days with her girls and nights with words.