The majority of children don’t like coming to hospital, seeing doctors or having procedures done. There are things about these experiences that seem to stick, in a bad way. We always do what we can to help of course. From bubbles, toys, distraction boxes, to YouTube on parents smart phones or DVD’s to clown doctors and play therapists, there are always techniques we try to make every experience that much more bearable. Or at least offer an icy pole, sticker, or ‘Bravery Award’ afterwards! Sometimes none or all of that doesn’t help. Sometimes it’s something as simple as the stethoscope around the neck or seeing the staff wear scrubs that sets them off. Other times it’s the beeping sounds or examinations like checking their ears or temperature or sticking a tongue depressor in their mouth. Squeezing syringes full of medicine in to their throats or using three people to hold down a 2 year old to get a drip in does it too. I feel sorry for them. I can completely understand why kids are terrified in these situations. Imagine a room full of strangers suddenly invading their personal space, half the time a parent in the corner crying wondering why we are torturing them, not to mention feeling like crap which is the reason they were there to begin with. No wonder children are scared when they come to hospital and see us.
But once in a while, believe it or not, children don’t need all this. Some kids almost enjoy coming to hospital and there are moments that they remember so fondly that they excitedly anticipate for next time. And just like my vague childhood memories of getting a lolly from the lolly jar every time we went to see the GP, sometimes there moments that make it all worth while.
For me it was a lolly, for some kids it’s, well different things…
…I saw a 3 year old girl who had an allergic reaction. It wasn’t an anaphylaxis which is the most severe type of allergic reaction and if untreated and it progresses it can be life threatening. She had the more common and less severe form – facial swelling and rash. People often mistake facial swelling and rash as anaphylaxis but there are certain other concerning features that need to be present to call it a true anaphylaxis like a swollen tongue, difficulty breathing, collapse etc. She didn’t have any of them. But either way it was an understandably frightening experience for her mum seeing this for the first time so of course an ambulance was called. It was the first time she had ever had almonds or avocados (now that is one healthy household) so we couldn’t be sure which food it was but my bet was on the almonds. The ambulance bought her in and she was stable. By the time I saw her she had already been given some antihistamine for the moderate reaction and she was completely back to normal. No more swelling, no more rash. Just back to her usual chatty self. And boy did she have things to say! Half way through my history with mum when I asked her if her daughter has ever been unwell or come in to hospital before, the little brunette curly haired patient tells me “No I haven’t been to hospital before but can I come again so I can go in the ambulance. That was so much fun. It was so loud. Wee-woo-wee-woo-wee-woooooo” as she twirled around in circles making the siren noise. For some the sirens are scary, for others it’s just plan fun!
…Another time I had to see a five year old boy. He tripped and fell on his chin slicing it open. This is such a common Paediatric emergency presentation. Lacerations or other injuries like hitting their head, sticking things up their nose or in their ear, breaking bones, twisting joints – you name it. Cuts on the head is up there as one of the most common from this bunch. So this poor five year old had a fairly large 5cm x 2cm wound on his chin. It wasn’t a nice, clean, straight wound so needed to have a few stitches and given the location of it, and the fact it was from outdoor bricks and therefore needed a good clean it couldn’t be done overnight in emergency. I arranged for them to come back the next day to see the plastic surgeons to have it closed properly under anaesthetic. When I explained this to mum the child started crying. I immediately thought “oh dear did I say the words SURGERY or STITCHES? Did he understand what an anaesthetic was? Great! I’ve already traumatised this poor child and now mum is going to have trouble getting him back to hospital in the morning” Instead through his tears and quivering lower lip he tells me “Laughing gas. I want the laughing gas. Just like last time Mum. Can I have the laughing gas??”
Most of the time what we do frightens kids. But sometimes, just sometimes, they have a way of finding the fun in anything!
Be healthy, be happy, be kind.
Dr. Nelu x
(Photo credit: https://wallpaperscraft.com/download/child_emotion_face_cute_funny_69888/3840×2160)