I tell you what I really needed today. Another 14 hours in hospital.
Oh no, wait, I got that wrong. I could have done with some sleep, but instead this is where we ended up. Luckily nothing turned out to be seriously wrong and the whole thing was largely precautionary. But so soon after the Hellish experience of Wednesday and Thursday, another day waiting in a tiny room, hoping to be told we could go home was a bit much.
It had been a disturbed night for Ernie, with some vomiting involved and then on the advice of the person on the end of the line we went into the local hospital at around 5am. I was so tired that I managed to drive the first mile without realising that my headlights weren’t on. They are usually on automatic so I have got used to not turning them on, but I presume my daughter had been fiddling with the knobs when we briefly let her sit up front last week (the car was parked) and had switched them off. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to see anything. “I can’t see where the turning is,” I said to my wife, clipping the pavement as I tried to find it. I tried putting the headlights on full beam but they wouldn’t stay on. I was baffled. Until I realised that I had no headlights on at all.
And there were no street lights to help confuse me. The roads were completely dark.
I wondered whether the dangers from the probably minor medical emergency were outweighed by the dangers of a man so tired that his brain couldn’t work out that he was driving in the dark, being out on the road. Luckily it was early and no one else was around and I didn’t kill three quarters of my family.
We struggled also to find out where we were supposed to be going once we got to the hospital. We were looking for Children’s A and E, but I couldn’t even see the signs to the adult one. We headed to maternity, but the corridors were empty and I couldn’t see any kind of A and E on the map (but as the headlight fiasco shows that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there). We decided to drive back to the car park and head for main reception. But that too was abandoned. An alarm was going off in the entrance to the hospital and there wasn’t a human being in sight. It felt like we’d wandered into the start of a horror movie or that we were about to be attacked by zombies or that there had been a terrorist attack at 5.30am in Stevenage and everyone had run for their lives.
So we looked at the map and again saw no A and E and made instead for the area where they dealt with children. But the out of hours GP for kids was locked. There was a man at the desk and he asked if we had an appointment, but we didn’t. We asked him to direct us to A and E, but his directions were a bit confused and it felt like we’d never get there.
Finally we chanced across a member of staff in the corridor who was either unaware of the zombie attack or proof that it wasn’t happening and though she didn’t know exactly where the children’s A and E was, she took us to A and E and it turned out it was next to that.
The tired panic of new parents abated.
We were very quickly seen by some calm and efficient nurses and tests were done and we were sent to wait in another room with another bed and a slightly uncomfortable chair and had to wait. It felt a bit like this was our life now.
But we got seen to quickly and had to wait for test results and so once sure that everything was basically OK, I drove home to take Phoebe to her football lesson. Where she continued her love/hate relationship with Theo. She was clearly enjoying the argument and thinking it was a joke, though Theo was less smiley. But then they had a hug, which was a bit exuberant and ended with them toppling and Phoebe banging her head. The course of true love never runs smooth. She still wanted to hang around with him though and when I asked if she liked him she shouted “No.” Life is so confusing.
Back to the hospital to see what was going on and slightly annoyed and angry that the car park there not only charged you, but charged you quite a lot. The first 20 minutes was free, but once you got over an hour you were already paying almost a fiver. And I’d already paid that once.
If I was Prime Minister the first thing I’d do would be to make hospital car parking free. Especially in a hospital like this where there was nothing else nearby so you wouldn’t get non-hospital people abusing the system. And even if there was other stuff around you could come up with some kind of chitty system. Thanks to Brexit though there will be no time to over turn the unjust charging for parking at hospitals.
It seemed we’d got to the root of the problem and that nothing too serious was wrong, but we needed to stay in to be observed and to see how feeding went in the afternoon. And we needed some stuff to keep us going, so I drive home and then to Boots to pick up what was required. And then had to use the car park for a third time. I wondered if the whole thing was a scam from the NHS. Tell people they have to come into hospital, then stall and make them wait and have to go and get extra stuff and just watch those car parking fees add up. Ian NHS knows what he’s doing.
We then waited all afternoon to see how things panned out. I don’t know how many three day old children read this blog, but my advice to them if they want to make sure that their parents really love them is to fake an early illness and then collude with NHS staff to have your parents shut up in a room, waiting, so they can concoct all kinds of worst-case scenarios and imagine losing you and how much that would hurt. Then you will have them hooked for life.
I mean it’s not like they need any help with that, but you might as well twist the knife.
I spent a lot of time holding my son and looking into his deep blue eyes, marvelling at their beauty. He’s got me hook, line and sinker.
We weren’t allowed to go home until we had got a urine sample from Ernie. So there followed a very surreal couple of hours where he lay on the bed with no nappy and I hovered around with a little receptacle ready to catch whatever flew out. Like a uriny wicket keeper. And maybe cricket would be more entertaining if it involved jets of baby urine and an It’s A Knockout dipstick affair.
I waited and waited. Staring at my son’s genitals, positioning a little bowl near to them, spotting some moisture, catching a little droplet of wee, taking it to the nurses to find out it wasn’t enough. Rushing back, hoping I hadn’t missed the geyser that would follow.
The more time that passed, the more I was determined not to be outdone in this strange competition, but also the more convinced that he’d do the business just as I was distracted by something else. Thankfully I can honestly say that I have never stared at a baby’s genitals as intently or for as long as I did today. We were willing him to go so we could escape our second hospital purgatory of the week. But he kept his wee to himself.
But man, the sense of achievement when the fountain finally sprang to life and I spotted the signs and caught nearly all of it.
Your children will never appreciate all the stuff you have to go through for them. And I know this because even though I am going through it all now, I still have no feeling of understanding or thanks that my parents must have done the same for me. But this has been a very hard first few days for us. And trying to catch my son’s wee, at the end of a day where I’d barely slept is probably a perfect symbol of the ridiculousness and sacrifice of being a parent. I am quite glad that he won’t remember this. Though I did consider taking a video so that we could show him what we’d done. When he was about 15 and had his first girl/boyfriend over.
Finally at 8.30pm we were allowed to go home. I was wearing a hospital smock because my t-shirt and been covered in baby sick.
Again I was impressed with the over-worked staff at this hospital and their dedication to making sure that everything was OK with this newborn, but concerned by how over-stretched resources were and the long waiting times that followed from that. It’s a system that seems to be trying to push those who can afford it towards private healthcare and let everyone else suffer. I can’t believe we’ve all allowed it to come to this. But then I can’t believe much of what we’re allowing to wash over us.
And the car park fees are the first step in making us pay for our treatment. I wouldn’t mind if the money all went into the NHS, but I bet it doesn’t. And I would still mind even if it did. I can afford to pay out nearly £20 to park at a hospital over the course of a day, but not everyone can (not even those lucky enough to have access to a car). And nobody should be making money out of people's misfortune. This world has got fucked up in so many ways.
So a difficult day, but at least we got to go home with our baby and all was well. My gratitude to the many people who helped us through this is immense. But I hope it’s our last hospital visit for a while.