Here is one of the things I am infinitely grateful for when Dominic is in hospital for a long time, away from Home and severely ill.
Parent accommodation. Something that you would never even consider or think about until you are in the worst of circumstances- miles from home with your child on life support. Sometimes it’s not even the ‘accommodation’ part – it’s just a shower with actual shampoo, and a kitchen where you can prepare actual vegetables..
When you are on a normal ward there is a single bed by the cot for one parent to sleep. This is absolutely fine for 1 night, 2 nights, 3 nights – when you know you are going home the next day – but by an indefinite night 4, it’s horrific. You don’t sleep. There is no discernible nighttime. And the random beeping and alarms make you slightly psychotic. However, you do have a bed.
There are no parent beds in HDU or ITU.
Your options are uncomfortable chair or go sleep in your car and freeze.
The magic of Ronald McDonald House is the way it gives you a brief sense of normality.
There is a family bathroom, available to any parent staying at the hospital. It has a bath, and a shower and nice smelling toiletries – on the ward, you might get a clinical, cold wet room if you’re lucky.
There is a kitchen where you can cook a pizza, fry some bacon or boil some potatoes – living on microwave meals and pot noodles gets old VERY quickly. They just don’t have enough vitamins to sustain you, and it’s just not cooking. If you cook at home normally, it’s amazing how you miss the simple routine of making a meal.
There is a laundry room. Dominic is still a baby – he vomits and refluxes ALOT. All of this equals a giant amount of laundry, both his, dads and mine. It’s not like we can just pop home and put a wash on, and we very quickly run out of clean clothes.
Then finally there are the bedrooms. Each has a small fridge, a shower and toilet, a TV and 2 single beds. This year, james and I have slept in seperate beds more than we have together lol! The room is very simple – but it is the perfect escape. It’s a lot like being in a hotel room… just minus the mini bar 🙂
There is also a different wifi signal which is somewhat faster than the rest of the hospital and 2 small lounge spaces with some toys and another TV – just to give you somewhere else to escape to.
The staff at the house are brilliant. They have seen it all. They even have a therapists couch in their office for when you totally lose it and just need to talk to someone. They know the local area and can arrange you a GP appointment if you need one, call the chaplain to come talk to you… they can pretty much answer any question you have about your stay.
The other parents at the house are also brilliant. They are an amazing source of comfort, knowledge and that brief poignant friendship that forms when you’re all going through the same crap at the same time. Newbies always look like zombies, veterans look like totally in control pragmatists and everyone else is either tired, in tears or making tea. Everyone will talk to you.
I suppose that’s the other thing about the house – maybe the real magic is simply the gift of giving you somewhere to go where you realise you really aren’t on your own.
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