We live in a wonderful country.
It doesn’t always feel wonderful, but when we realize how easily accessible basic healthcare is for us we are reminded that it truly is a privilege to call this place home. Many of the children in our adoption communities have been given a shot at a better life because of the level of world-class medical care available. Some of our children who received terminal diagnoses in their birth countries will now live long, full lives because of the medical systems available in this country.
But even with this reminder, hospital stays aren’t a holiday. They almost always bring with them a great level of stress. Most of the time, everything goes great. Sometimes things can go sideways. Things get complicated and what was planned to be an overnight in a hospital room becomes weeks of little to no sleep on a noisy, busy PICU floor.
Even if everything goes according to plan, there are some essentials you’ll want to make sure you have in your cache to help reduce stress, and improve your mental, emotional, and spiritual stamina in the face of the constant beeps and alarms, 3AM vital checks, shift change, rounds, and the overall constant vigilance of being Advocate #1 for your little one.
Some of these will be like duh, but even the obvious ones could benefit from a little reminder now and then. In normal times, they become part of the blurry background and their value gets lost in the hustle. But in times of upheaval, sometimes a little attention to the basics can be life-saving.
So here they are. Three essentials for your hospital stay.
See. I told you. Duh, right? But the ability to cultivate patience helps provide the clarity needed in stressful situations to make wise decisions. You’ll be beyond exhausted and you’ll feel like climbing the walls because you probably haven’t seen the outside world in days. Prepare yourself ahead of time that you may be in for the long haul. Conditions may not be ideal. Different doctors and nurses will have different approaches to caring for you child. When you find yourself in less than lovely situations, patience creates the margin you need to reframe and focus on the need without the trappings of a mental and emotional wasteland.
When you’re sitting in a hospital room or the ICU with your child, the last thing you can think about is leaving to get food. If you’re lucky, family members or friends can bring food to your room. If you’re in the ICU, NICU, or PICU, you might not be allowed many visitors. Our hospital offered a discounted meal card to the on-site cafe. Not all hospital food is created equal, but even the best chicken fingers lose their appeal after a couple days (except for Chick-fil-A, right?). No doubt, you’ll do what you have to do if no other options exist. But if you’re in a US metro area, you need to download an app called Postmates. Postmates is like Uber for food, coffee, flowers, snacks, and a variety of other things. Yes, there’s a service fee and you’ll probably want to tip your driver. But with Postmates you have the wealth of restaurants and coffee shops at your disposal without having to leave the hospital.
This one had been mysterious to us for some time. I’m a pastor and have served in churches since 1997. And yet this fundamental part of our faith was always a bit shrouded. The biggest hurdle was, “Is prayer for my benefit or for God’s?” Without writing an exposition on prayer, the simple answer is, there are different kinds of prayers. This became real to us in 2009 when our 10-month old daughter was admitted to the NICU with RSV. We were scared and for (what felt like) a long time, we couldn’t be back there with her. We began to reach out and ask for prayer. In a matter of moments, things began to shift and by evening she had improved enough to be moved to a private room (which was another sort of miracle in and of itself). Over and over again we’ve seen how prayer actually works.
As followers of Jesus, we are all connected through the Holy Spirit, the Counselor left to us at Jesus’ departure. This connection creates a sort of supernatural superhighway. This superhighway conveys whispers into the hearts and minds of those in positions to act. And in a matter of minutes, the nurse who says, “There are no private rooms available,” reverses her position to say, “Actually, something in the new wing just opened up.” Or, “I’m sorry but we won’t be giving her anything to manage pain today. It’s gonna be a hard day today, but that’s just the way it is,” to only a moment after prayer, “How about a little morphine?” We have seen prayer, on multiple occasions, literally change the course of care right before our eyes. Of all things to take with you, prayer will be your most valuable resource.
Certainly, there are other important and practical things to take to the hospital. This is not an exhaustive list. I know other things are helpful. You probably already thought of others (some of them probably start with P), but the bottom line is this: