It is the Holiday time. The hustle and bustle is swinging onto high gear. People are buying, wrapping, cooking, singing, decorating and gathering.
It is a terrible time for a kid to be in the hospital.
Tonight the Family Advisory Council at UCSF Children’s Hospital is hosting an evening for families who are stuck in the hospital at this time. It is nothing fancy, just pizza and the like, but it is also an opportunity to bring just a tiny bit of the holidays to those stuck the hospital with their child. The patients will get gifts galore, which is as it should be. However, the siblings and the parents are also having a lousy holiday and perhaps this will brighten it just a little bit.
As I spoke about this with the boys last night, Eddie remembered the year Maggie was in the hospital at Christmas. I corrected him. No, she was in at Thanksgiving one year, and all of our birthdays, but never at Christmas. He insisted, saying he distinctly remembers me saying Santa had not come yet because Maggie was sick. Then I remembered, it was her first Christmas, but she was never actually admitted.
Maggie’s first year was much more IN the hospital than out. She was “ok” at Christmas time and I was not going to mess with it. At Christmas Eve dinner, she started falling apart and I knew something was up. We got the kids back home and I took Maggie up to the ER at about 10PM on Christmas Eve. She was getting sicker by the minute. They diagnosed ear infections in both ears and because her breathing was so bad wanted to admit her.
When I heard ear infections, I almost jumped for joy. That was a normal kid problem. I could handle that problem at home. The breathing issue was just Maggie’s norm, but I was having a hard time convincing the doctor on duty of that. I thought there is NO WAY I am spending Christmas in the hospital unless I am convinced it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. I told the young doctor on duty that if she thought Maggie needed the ICU, I would agree, otherwise I was taking her home.
They called in the attending doctor to back up the young residents. She too thought admission was warranted and I pushed back again and again. Of course, all of this was taking hours. They were going to watch her for a while before they forced a decision one way or the other. I could not bear the thought of missing the boys on Christmas morning when I had already missed so much of the year. I thought of my husband at home wrapping all the Santa gifts by himself. I needed to talk to him.
This was in 1994, a time we like to call “the days before cell phones”. The doctor came back in to see if Maggie was improving any with the treatments and medication. She wasn’t – but she wasn’t getting worse either. I asked if there was any way I could call my husband. Relieved, the doctor led me to the doctors’ workroom to use the phone. You could see that she thought I was caving. It was as though she was saying, “Good, he’ll talk some sense into her.” However, that was not the reason for my call.
I told Steve what was happening and that I was trying to get out of there, but I had to get something straight about the gifts. I felt every doctor in the room staring as I said, “The YELLOW power ranger is for Tim and the GREEN power ranger is for Eddie. Put the pink one in Maggie’s stocking.
I think she gave up then. Suddenly the discussion changed to IF we send her home and she gets worse what will you do? I will come back, I promise. I would not insist on taking her home if I did not think I could handle it. She wrote a prescription and said give her some of this as soon as you get home. I said, can we fill it here? She said no, the pharmacy is closed. I said, “Well, it’s 3AM on Christmas morning. I’m willing to bet every other pharmacy is closed too.” She told me there is a 24-hour pharmacy in the marina district. (Still trying half heartedly to get me to admit Maggie) I just looked at her and said, "this child is so ill you think she should be in the hospital, but now you are telling me to take her across town to the 24-hour pharmacy?”Why not give her the first dose now and I can get my husband to fill it in the morning.
Done. I took her home and after a couple of hours of sleep spent Christmas morning with all three kids. The boys were oblivious to the events of the night before but Eddie, who was 6 then, asked me what time Santa came. I told him when I came home from the hospital with Maggie he hadn’t come yet.
From that whole adventure, that is all he remembers or really ever knew. That was a good Christmas