I would drive 500 miles,
And I would drive 500 more
Just to be the mom who drove
A thousand miles to fall down at your door
Children of the 80s will recognize what song I’m altering from Benny and Joon (a happy homonym of our daughter’s name)…here’s a reminder:
The nesting productivity continues, and since I finished June’s baby quilt, I am on to cataloging medical bills at her bedside today. Detailed projects are oddly soothing and they help pass the time. Today I tallied the miles we’ve driven to our many medical appointments this year (they qualify for reimbursement through our flex spending account- who knew?)…it’s over 3,700 miles, with no single trip being over 100 miles. More than 1,000 miles were driven in November alone.
Obviously, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in hospitals recently. I partly live here- sometimes spending half of the nights of a given week at the hospital. I thought I’d share some surprises I’ve learned about hospital-living culture.
Ronald McDonald House is awesome
I never knew exactly what this charity did, but I’ve learned they provide free resources and support to families of sick children. For instance at our hospital they have two family rooms and community kitchen areas as well as 20 private bedrooms for overnight stays. Sometimes a hot meal that has been donated is available in the kitchen, and when the volunteers have time, they bake fresh cookies throughout the day. I’ve stayed in a RMH room about half of the nights that I’ve slept at the hospital. Each room is similar to this:
small and clean with a bed, desk, alarm clock, and full private bathroom. There’s no television, no eating or drinking allowed in the room, and no children allowed. They provide a set of linen and towels folded on the desk, and as a guest, you make your own bed and then bag up the linens for easy retrieval in the morning. It’s truly an efficiently run place just for parents to sleep, shower, and rest while at the hospital. I am so grateful for the nights I’ve been able to stay here. On the nights that I haven’t been lucky in the room lottery, I have practiced mastering the art of sleeping in a chair at June’s bedside with a neck pillow. I learned to seek a chair next to a wall, or better yet, in a corner to increase the gravity-proof positions available to me. And I’ve developed a system of draping some not-theft-worthy belongings over my chair to maintain dibs if I have to get up briefly.
Hospital staff are amazing people
You need only spend Halloween at a children’s hospital and see the nation’s leading medical specialists padding around dressed as giant Dalmatians and Disney princesses to conclude that hospital staff are usually compassionate, warm, and quirky people. My stays have been enriched by making friends with the quickly-familiar faces around me. One of my nurses brainstormed toddler activities with me as we simultaneously planned her grandkids’ upcoming visit and my son’s birthday party. When I was caught off guard by the pronouncement that June could start wearing clothes instead of using the warmer, June’s nurse produced an adorable onesie she had bought for her which became June’s first outfit. Rowan has netted two stuffed animals from random staff members so far. When I was on bed rest at the hospital, one of the room service employees always stopped in to watch a few minutes of football on game days and trade fantasy team updates with me. And my bedside quilting has attracted some attention over the last two months, and many people- from doctors to phlebotomists to house keepers- stop by, even when they are no longer assigned to June or me, to see how my project is going.
Parking is a sport
Med center parking a clear illustration of the law of supply and demand at work. The prices are outrageous (maybe only to a suburbanite like me), and I often have to wind through several garages to find a parking spot. Late one night I witnessed a Robin Hood-like thievery of the parking industry when someone on a motorcycle zipped around the metal arm, avoiding the $18 fee. Having no motorcycle of my own though, I just choose to park outside of the med center and take the metro rail in (or hitch a ride with a helpful friend or family member) whenever I have the time.
Scouting is an art
If parking is a sport, scouting the surrounding area is an art. As I’ve wandered hospitals over the last few months, I’ve taken note of superior facilities when I find them. “Facilities,” including bathrooms. It’s no fun to use public bathrooms week after week, but it definitely helps to identify the “best” ones to use…..ones that have a functional hook for my backpack, or that have hand sanitizer nearby, or that have motion activated water and paper towels, or that don’t have the industrial air fresheners that make the room smell like pez candy, or ones that are simply off of typical high “sick patient traffic” paths. Similarly, not all cafeterias are created equal. Since the hospitals are often connected via skyways or basements, it’s easy to venture out. I’ve found that nurses often don’t have enough time to get lunch elsewhere (or at all), so actually the people with the best food tips are fellow frequent-flier parents. The cafeteria with the best food and the longest hours near me is hidden away on the basement floor of an adjoining hospital. Other nearby finds in the skyway systsem: two Starbucks coffee locations, massage services, a simple but beautiful chapel, and this amazing train set that Rowan adores.