It’s another appointment day for us at the Children’s Hospital. We drive an hour and a half for our specialists appointments. Appointment days are hard, and I wake up with a knot in the pit of my stomach and the urge to just crawl back in bed and pretend that this is a typical day. Alas, these days require my Tony award winning acting attempt. So, what’s it like to visit a children’s hospital and what would make it easier to go?
Children’s hospitals are vast cities inside of themselves. They have different clinics that cater to every system within your body. Some feel airy and open while others feel sterile and clinical. Some hospitals strive to make you feel like you are at a resort that just so happens to try and save or improve the lives of those that visit. Yet, there are others that are just plain depressing. Our children’s hospital falls in between these two extremes. The environment is to keep the children upbeat, but every parent knows that no amount of playful interior can change our own. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find parents talking to each other. The focus here is on survival. I honestly believe the experience would be so much easier if free chocolate and coffee were offered!
Once you make it to your designated clinic, you wait. Waiting is something that you must expect. These appointments can consume entire days with ninety percent of that being spent waiting. Signs can often be found reminding you that your appointment can take three hours. Of those three hours twenty minutes will be spent with the doctor and ten with a nurse. So, you learn to pack a giant back of tricks to keep your child entertained and happy. Here are our top picks:
- A gallon bag filled with snacks. Try to avoid anything with nuts! You never know what child will come after you. The minute you are put in the tiny exam room, your child will declare they are starving!
- A few juice boxes. Remember that long wait?
- Internet is typically limited or non existent inside the exam room. So, if you are bringing electronics, make sure something is downloaded onto the device to watch.
- Toys! Pack backpack full of things like: Paper airplanes, something like this which can be found at the Dollar Store, washable markers to draw on the exam table paper, coloring books, books to read, Play Doh, Legos, dolls, blank copy paper.
- Games you can play: I Spy, Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, Yahtzee, Simon Says, travel sized games, collaborative storytelling, Cat’s Cradle, and card games.
- A change of clothing. It’s not uncommon for a fully potty trained child to pee their pants when it comes time for a blood draw.
- Bring a small bouncy ball and take turns tossing it into the sink! Forgot the ball? Wad up some paper towels and play basketball into the trash can. Want to go green? Download the app on your phone!
- Something new. Stop at the Dollar Store and grab new things that your child has not played with before. Bonus that you won’t care if they get broke or lost.
- Create an obstacle course! Can you wheel them, have them walk, etc around the doc’s chair, next to the exam table, and then on the cream square in a minute? Ooooh! Try again!
- Bring a travel pillow and take a nap? Ok, that’s wishful thinking!
- Take two tongue depressors, color them, and then have a mock sword fight!
- Take two cotton balls and blow them across the exam table and have a race across the finish line!
- Make balloons out of exam gloves and play a volleyball game of sorts.
- Play doctor! Just remember to not touch the real instruments.
All in all, visiting a children’s hospital or doctor’s office is emotionally draining, but making it as painless as possible makes things easier for everyone. The key is to be creative, patient, and prepared!