Rowan’s hospital visit had me reminiscing about my own three-day stay when I was six years old. I don’t really recall the breathing difficulties that landed me there – it blends in with so many other episodes in those years. But I remember quite a bit from the hospital.
M is for monitor. At some point I discovered that I could make mountains, or Ms on the respiratory monitor if I did some quick deep breaths. Needless to say, this set off the alarms frequently.
I’m right handed. They put the IV in my right arm. Because kids are weird, rather than trying to use my left hand, I used my toes. I recall opening get-well gifts with my toes, and drawing with those cone-shaped crayons with my toes.
I hate apple sauce. I was six, and couldn’t swallow pills. So they broke open the Theo-Dur capsules and put them on food. My mom told them to use either pudding or ice cream, but they refused because they believed the dairy in those would make things worse (whatever). They gave it to me on applesauce. They can’t say they weren’t warned that I hated applesauce. And this was applesauce with the contents of a rather bitter pill sprinkled on top. I threw it all back up and they had to clean things. Serves them right.
All I wanted was a grilled cheese. I was a really picky eater, and hospital food 30 years ago at Craven Regional was not what it is today at Duke. You got what you got, basically. My mom argued with a nurse to let her go get me a grilled cheese sandwich. I was willing to go on a hunger strike until one appeared. Incidentally, this is what I wanted after both my babies were born, too.
They didn’t want to get blood on my nightgown. I was wearing my favorite nightgown. I recall it being blue and silky. When they got ready to put in the IV they wanted me to change into a hospital gown, so they wouldn’t get blood on my clothes. Adult Rhiannon is wondering what kind of hatchet job they were planning to do that was going to get blood on my short-sleeved nightgown.
The space accordion. I got my own inhaler for the first time, and it was connected to a spacer that made a sound like a badly tuned accordion (do you tune an accordion?) when I used it. Back then the instruction was to press the inhaler, then breathe in really fast and hold my breath for five “Rhiannons.” One Rhiannon, Two Rhiannon, Three Rhiannon, Four.
It’s like camping, but with more oxygen. I was really jealous of the kids who got to be in those O2 tents. I had never seen one, but my mom told me about them, and well, they sounded sort of like fun. More fun than the nasal cannula, at least. It appealed to my introverted side, the idea of having a tiny little tent all to myself. Plus, I bet I would have gotten even more attention.
All breathing work and no play. The pediatric play room was directly across the hall. I could see into it if I sat up. I imagined that it was full of the most awesome toys known to child. Hospitals seemed like the type of place that would have the very best. But I wasn’t allowed to go in there. Occasionally nurses and my parents would bring things into my room, and I assumed they were screwing with me, because the toys they brought were crap.
I got to ride in a wheelchair. That was cool.