When we realized we'd be heading to the ER with Ava, we immediately thought of our local and state-of-the-art Level 1 trauma center children's hospital, Dell Children's Medical Center. We'd never been there before, but only because Ava had never needed the type of medical intervention that could be better given at an institution specially designed for children. Though we had concerns that the wait times would be longer, we tossed those hesitations by the wayside, being more interested in child-size IVs and trained medical professionals sensitive to children's unique fears and issues. It turned out to be the second best decision we made that night (the first being to rush her in immediately per our instincts).
Here are just a handful of the ways that Dell Children's Medical Center went above and beyond during our stay:
- As mentioned above, everyone on staff is specially trained to address the fears of both children and their, ahem, hysterical parents. I was never made to feel like a crazed mother, nor was Ava talked down to or treated with anything even remotely resembling disrespect. Instead, everyone went out of their way to ensure that she was comfortable, that we were in the know, and that she experienced as little anxiety as humanly possible during our stay, both in the ER and our room. We were offered coffee in the waiting area, asked repeatedly how long we'd been waiting (it was only about thirty minutes from our entrance through the ER doors to being brought back to an ER bed - IMPRESSIVE!) and treated with empathy and compassion. For that, I am endlessly thankful.
- All of the medical equipment is designed for children where possible. She was given the smallest IV needle possible, and the support used to immobilize her hand was definitely child-specific. We also had to measure her urine output the entire time we were there, but she was resistant to using the "tee tee hat" insert for the toilet, and they were so accommodating, pulling out all sorts of gadgets to meet our request that she not be catheterized unless as an absolute last resort. They were great about respecting our wishes.
- It may sound ridiculous, but the design and decor of the hospital alone was a lifesaver. How many walks we must have taken through the halls to check out the handprints ingrained in the walls, the many murals, the colorful, child-centered artwork, the fish tank and so on. If she hadn't been hooked up to IVs and feeling awful, she may have thought we were at an amusement park:
- Catering only to children, the hospital had an amazing playroom for admitted children and their families to use. Sadly, we were unable to use it since we were essentially labeled as extremely contagious. Instead, a Child Life Specialist (a career path I actually explored through my major and sometimes wish I would have pursued) came to our room and asked us what we wanted to play with from it, and then brought us coloring books, paints and paper and games. What an amazing service!
- One of the most amazing things that Dell does is offer a service on the website to send greeting cards to patients. Better yet? Anyone can do it, and they're FREE! We got 34 cards delivered to Ava's room on Monday, with an outpouring of love from around the country. I can't remember the last time my heart felt so full with love, both incoming and outgoing. To everyone who sent a card, I can never, ever sufficiently express my gratitude to you, but let me at least start by saying thank you so much. We love you all. Each and every card brought a smile to her face, and tears to my eyes.
- And last, but certainly not least, if you're ever looking for an Austin-based non-profit to support, please consider the Assistance League of Austin. One of their projects they fund is sending carts of toys and books into the hospital, and going door to door to visit sick children and allowing them to pick a toy and book each! I may or may not have cried over the gesture, when Ava perked up at a new Belle barbie (her favorite princess!) and a Goldilocks and the Three Bears book to read. Thank you so much, ALA. We will certainly repay the debt.
- Oh, and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles.
A huge thank you to the staff, doctors, nurses, clinical assistants, child life specialists, ALA volunteers, and everyone else who was a part of Ava's team of medical providers. We are forever in your debt.