As you know, Ben spent way too long at Children’s Hospital in Oakland four years ago. That hospital has a bustling ER, many floors full of kids in a variety of states of health, a huge cafeteria, at least two ICUs and a NICU as well. Hundreds of patients, hundreds of doctors and personnel. Hundreds of shell shocked parents. Shriners is a totally different beast. I didn’t even realize how different until this trip. It’s amazing what you don’t know if you don’t even know the questions to ask!
Shriners Philadelphia is an orthopedic-exclusive hospital. (I believe each Shriners has a specialty.) It is extremely small and does not take any ER patients. The ICU only has 5 patients at a time and each one has his/her own room. Right now, because of budget issues they’ve cut back on surgeries, but they also have active clinics, an orthotist (brace and prosthetic maker) on site, radiology, and a HUGE play room for kids. I’ll try to take some pictures, it’s a very cool space. (If you want more information about the Shriners go here.)
When we checked in here yesterday very little was going on. Few patients, not a lot of staff. They are typically quiet, making sure they don’t have anyone in the ICU on the weekends. We got the tour, signed some forms, the usual. Ben sat on his hospital bed with an eye on the TV and two hands on his iPod, his mood fairly cheerful. Mark got Chinese take out for dinner and then the nurses arrived with the “pokes.”
I need to tell you that an IV stick is not just an IV stick to Ben. Two months at Children’s ingrained in him many negative associations with hospital life. The Poke is probably the worst. He was a human pincushion by the time we left Children’s and as soon as the Pokes arrived this time, it all came a’rushin’ back. The first nurse tried with two needles to get a good vein to no avail. Ben was tense (not helpful) and anxious, cried, and nauseous by the end. She’d dug around for quite a bit and it was not pleasant. We called home so that he could talk to his brothers, and connecting with Harry (especially) calmed him down and cheered him up. When the next nurse came in (a very animated young woman who assured him she was the best around at getting IV’s in and talked Nintendo, Super Mario, horses, and getting grossed out by needle pokes with him) he was a bit more accepting of his fate. And when she was ready to do her dirty work we called Harry who valiantly stayed on the phone with his little brother through the whole ordeal. I say “ordeal” because though she was able to get it in right away (she was really good!) the drawing of the blood really hurt and he cried bitterly. Poor Harry sat on the other end in California offering up inappropriate inside jokes from one of their favorite video games, telling Ben he was there for him, and more I can’t even recall. It’s the love part of their love/hate relationship and it gives me tremendous hope for their future connections. Thank goodness for brothers!
About this time Dr. Cahill, Ben’s spine surgeon, arrived to give Ben the once over. We had a long chat with him and left the room to get the talk about risks and possible negative outcomes. I won’t bother you with the details, but suffice it to say I started to feel extremely nauseous and was wishing I’d popped one of my happy pills before we left Ben’s bedside. Intellectually we know that the chances of one of these dreadful issues arising are very slim, but we’re seriously gun-shy having seen that side of surgery when Ben was at Children’s. To say we’re all traumatized is an understatement.
Soon enough it was time for me to head back to the hotel to get some rest before returning for the surgery. (Only one parent is allowed to stay at bedside with each patient.) That’s when I realized how small and quiet an operation Shriners really is. There was no one at the front desk, the lights were turned down in the lobby, the doors were locked. Shriners was CLOSED. I went back upstairs to ask the nurses for help and we discovered that the cab companies were not accepting new fares for the rest of the night due to volume (Valentine’s Day evening) and road conditions. I got fairly desperate, we called a lot of taxi companies, finally had one say they’d send someone in an hour and I went down to the lobby to wait. I finally decided to call the hotel and after a couple calls found someone who took pity on me and arranged for a driver to come pick me up. It still took him a while to get there (the hotel is only 15 minutes from the hospital, but the streets are banked by snow and the driving conditions are not ideal) but I was finally “home” in my comfy hotel room by 10 pm. Exhausted.