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Preparing for Children's Surgeries and Hospital Stays

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Everyone who is anyone in the writing profession suggests that you “write what you know.”

A few weeks ago, I found myself on a hospital chair converted to a bed. One of my children had just had surgery, and we were being kept in the hospital overnight so that they could monitor his breathing. Our room for the night was euphemistically called an “open room,” which means it wasn’t a room at all. It was more like a glorified ER, with curtains on either side of us and in front of us. Privacy curtains don’t do a particularly good job at blocking noise, and they certainly weren’t this night.

At 3 AM, there were bed pan sounds to the right of us and vomit noises to the left. As I lay there, plenty tired but far from sleep, it hit me: This is what I know.

Thankfully all of my kids are alright, but it has been a year of surgeries for us. This was our fourth surgery in 9 months and our third child to have surgery. You know you’ve been to the children’s hospital a lot when a recovery room nurse says, “Hey! I know you” but then does a double take because the child in the bed is not the one she cared for before.

When we had our hospital cubicle sleepover, I was almost done writing my book Beautiful Paradox:Musings, Marvelings and Strategies of a Special Needs Parent but after that night I came home and added a hospital packing list to the book (complete with a recommendation to bring ear plugs).

Some people are experts on how to make gourmet food or how to travel like a jet setter. I, it seems, am a de facto expert on all-things glamorous, like how to spend the small night in noisy spaces filled with bodily sounds. Man, is it good to be me.

There really isn’t a place on the resume for “skilled minivan medical transporter” or “experienced bather of children in casts. Number of casts lost to water incidents on the job: 0” unless you work in the medical or healthcare profession (and I don’t). But these, nonetheless, are among the things I know.

If your job title includes “parent” or “parent to a child with medical or special needs,” then these are the things you need to know too.

Below are my recommended hospital packing lists, gleaned from first-hand experience.

Hospitals aren’t fun places to be. But if you have to go, you may as well go like a Scout and Be Prepared. (Badge not included.)

If you're looking for more tried-and-true tips like these, they can be found in Beautiful Paradox: Musings, Marvelings and Strategies of a Special Needs Parent, available on Amazon.

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