Sailing through Sickness

My kids have struggled with health issues. 
Yehoshua was allergic to foods, a colic baby, and easily prone to colds, coughs, allergies and wheezing. Atarax and Colic Aid were my constant companions the first time. 

Zachary too has struggled with cough and wheezing. Sometimes the cough stays as long as a month. This time around the nebuliser is my best friend. 

Zach & His Buddy

Like any parent I struggle when my kids are unwell. I go into an overdrive mode, trying to control the symptoms before they get worse and slowly as they get better, I start falling apart having pushed myself with worry. 

First things first. A baby rocks your world – physically, emotionally, financially and every possible way. There is no way you will ever be prepared for what is coming your way, when the possibilities are so peculiar, so different, so specific, and so varied.

IT IS OKAY TO NOT KNOW!

Don’t beat yourself for not knowing everything, for not having all the right answers, for being confused and unsure!
I was almost home, having been discharged, when the hospital called me saying they made a mistake. The child was jaundiced and needed to be admitted right back. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I struggled through the night, the stitches sore, but fearful of sleeping, lest his eye patch came off. Now I know, most babies are jaundiced. A little care and treatment, they will be fine. I wish it had felt easier at that point. 

PROCESSING DATA

I also know that everyone seems to know better than you. Postpartum bodies are going through a hormonal roller-coaster and all that advice can be overwhelming. It is easy to feel pressured and angry.  

It was within a week or so after I had been discharged that Yehoshua would not stop crying. He was shrieking in pain, and nothing I did could calm him down. I was inconsolable. Our family friend and doctor rushed to my aid…and she figured in a minute the baby had colic pain. 
This time another’s advise, experience and ghar ka nuskaas helped. Now I know ‘jeera or ajwain water’ or rubbing babies tummies with methi powder dissolved in some warm water helps colic

Sieve the information. Simply listen to all the ‘gyaan’, take what you want, throw out what you don’t

INCLUDE PEOPLE WHEN YOU CAN

The point is to not feel emotionally obligated to do anything you are not comfortable doing. But the effort should also be to include others in the journey – the grandparents, uncles & aunts, the friends and relatives. Put that effort because they care enough to want to become a part of your journey. 
But always remember, it is YOUR journey with your baby. 
Enjoy it and set the boundaries you need to for your sanity. 

TRUST THAT VOICE

Experience has taught me to trust my ‘gut’. 

I was told at two a.m. that my baby needed to be moved to the ICU. I was to sign the consent and wait outside. Hospital Policy. I refused to budge. When the nurse rattled incorrect information, I was able to correct and clarify till the doctor trusted that I was involved but not intending to be intrusive. 

If something is bothering you, discomforting you, trust that feeling. Don’t let anyone (especially the doctors and nurses) make you feel uncomfortable. Ask those questions anyway, clarify, again and again, till you are certain that you and them are doing the best you can. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH

A good doctor and a feasible hospital will take you a long way during stressful times. It is ok to go to multiple people and multiple places before you can make that decision. Sometimes credentials are not the only things that matter. 

Choose someone who values your time, who does not patronise you but understands your concerns. Someone you can trust the life of your child with. 

Having the right person to call when things go wrong will take a heavy load off you than trying to search for the right doctor and to second guess their advice. 

SHARE RESPONSIBILITY

When Yehoshua needed to be admitted, the hospital refused to give him a bed or care till I filled up the paperwork. Between running helter-skelter to fill forms and make payments, I had to change the pans which he kept throwing up into. Finally I lost it and screamed in the middle of a leading hospital. And when I did, there was a bed, a room was made available and the treatment began immediately. 

I should not have had to go through that and made to feel worse about being alone. Now I calmly tell the hospital staff I am alone and refuse to do the paperwork if I am not in a position to. 

Most large hospitals have the resources to arrange for help. I am no longer a single parent but I have been there. I know how crucial it is for hospitals to take responsibility to cater and consider people who have no family or support in such times of crisis.  

BE PREPARED

You may not know what you are preparing for but you must plan for it. Carry your inhalers when travelling. Or your antidotes. If it is allergies, get a purifier. Dust regularly. Be a pain about things you have to. Those who care will understand. 

Health issues are unexpected; You do not want to be in a position to have to choose a treatment based on costs. Having an insurance cover helps. Plan for an insurance that even caters for a day care treatments and surgeries that are expensive like adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, or the unexpected broken arm.

Insurances start only when a baby is three months old. By then my kid was already admitted and it cost us a few lacs. We could manage because we had our savings and a great family to lean on. 

ASK FOR HELP

It is not necessary to do it all on your own. Resist the temptation to sit up all night taking care of the sick child without any help. Involve your spouse or friends whenever you can. 
When you are rushing to the hospital and focussed on the treatment plan, you may need someone to manage fresh clothes, and the home front. 
Take help from friends, family, neighbours and whoever offers! Trust the cycle of life, they too will need you at some point. Just be available for them in their times of need. 


WORK AS A TEAM

As a single parent, I was solely responsible for the decisions I took.  
As a couple, there are two parties involved who share equal rights and responsibilities. It was at 5 a.m. that the doctor called me in to tell me Zachary need be supported by a ventilator. When my husband heard, he simply said I am coming and hung up.
Few minutes later the doctor called and told me “You can take your time, but I cannot promise you, that your child will be breathing when you are back.” I signed without waiting for Thomas. 

The five days Zach was on the ventilator showing no signs of recovery, and in all the time we have been together, Thomas has never once questioned my judgement about our kid’s health. He has backed me when I fought with the doctors and trusted I knew what I was talking about when I requested for them to discharge us. It is important to reach out, communicate and take decisions together. 

BE WILLING TO TAKE HARD DECISIONS

You may not have all the right answers and it is okay to trust doctors for some. But when things are not working out, it is necessary to take difficult decisions. A close relative had his baby admitted and there were no answers forthcoming. But no matter how many times we asked him to get a second opinion or to transfer the child to another hospital, he refused. 

His reasoning, what if something went wrong when he took that call. 
My question is what if something happens because you didn’t do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. 
Do not let fear overpower you. Stay calm, but be prepared to rattle the system. 
I know for a fact that the quality of my son’s treatment changed with the influence of the people that contacted his doctor. It was our job to make that happen.  

When he opened his eyes for the first time in five days!


OUR EXPERIENCES COUNT
I remember panicking at the smallest issues the first time. Now, I see Thomas stress about those and I guess in a way, my having been there and done that, helps him take better decisions. 
I know we as parents will sail this boat often…Balancing work, relationships and one’s own needs can also take a toll. 

My experience with health issues have been extremely different each time, not just with my kids growing up in different cities with different attitudes and support structures but with my transition from being a single parent to a married couple handling these problems. 

Our journeys are different but with kindness, patience and respect we can build a community that cares, that helps and makes every difficult chapter have a happy ending.  

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