Hospital Reflections

It’s been just over two years since Julianna’s last major hospital stay. (19 months since the last “observation” overnight.) I woke up this morning thinking, not about that illness, but the first one. The one that more or less kicked off this blog, back in 2007. Thinking about how the staff told Christian to prepare himself—and how they didn’t say that to me. Truthfully, I’ve often wondered if Christian interpreted something they said in a more dire manner than they intended it. (He’s a worrier, my husband.)

But then I think of myself at that time—in my postpartum hormonal fog, complicated by grieving and reorganizing my expectations. I think of myself, hauling in a big rollaround scrapbooking organizer and sitting in the vinyl chairs under the windows day after day, of the cardiologist coming in at 10a.m. and laughing at me: “Have you moved since yesterday afternoon?” Especially, I think of the moment when someone had come to visit, and the alarms started going off and the room started filling with people trying to get my daughter’s sats (blood oxygen saturation) to leave the 40% range and get back to something halfway acceptable, like 85% (95 is normal). I said, “I don’t need to see this,” and took my guest to the visitors’ room, where we chatted unconcernedly for twenty minutes. We’d been through this drop in sats so many times, and not once had it ever occurred to me that when an ICU room fills up with people, that’s a very bad thing.

I wonder now if God was shielding me from full understanding. I was a nursing mom—even if all the milk had to be pumped and fed to her via NG tube. The stress of the hospital stay was enough; could I have held a milk supply at all if I’d had to cope with the fear of losing my daughter?

Two years later, Julianna was in the P-ICU again. They never indicated that she was in danger this time, although they didn’t pretend that pneumonia was no big deal, either. For several days of that hospital stay, the room next door was occupied by an infant—all but newborn. For the first three days I never saw a parent in the room. I never asked, because I knew the staff couldn’t tell me anything, but the only things that stopped me from begging to go in and hold that baby were 1) I already had a baby living with me in the P-ICU, and 2) my daughter was gravely ill, and I didn’t want to pass it on.

I never knew why that child was in the ICU, and I’ll never understand why the room remained so bare. When you’re in the hospital for an extended period, the room grows decor: coats get brought on a cold morning and tossed on the windowsill, where they get left behind when the weather warms; books wander in and never seem to get taken home. Some of the kids who were out on the main floor, staying for months on end, had posters on the wall and curtains on the windows; you could barely navigate the floor from door to hospital bed. But this room, the room next to Julianna’s in the PICU, the room with a newborn child—this one was nothing but a hospital room with a baby in it.

There is a certain drama inherent in crisis points. Once in a while I find myself feeling nostalgic for those hospital days, missing the intimacy with the wonderful doctors and nurses there, and wondering when we’ll be there again. Then I shake myself and think, Are you kidding? And I hastily thank God that Julianna seems to have outgrown her propensity to land in the P-ICU on a ventilator.