When Daegan went into the hospital a few weeks ago, I left my two older boys with my husband’s parents.
But, because I am exclusively breastfeeding my 6 month-old daughter and I knew that Daegan was going to be hospitalized for at least a few days, I took Novalee with me when Daegan was transferred an hour away.
That first night, around 10 p.m., the nurse on duty came into his room to check his blood sugar and potassium pump. As she was leaving the room, she glanced over at me rocking Novalee and asked, “Is someone coming to pick her up?”
When I told her no, she informed me that the hospital does not allow anyone under eighteen to stay in the pediatric patient rooms overnight.
I explained to her that I was keeping the baby with me because she’s nursing. She said she would ask her manager if they could make an exception to the policy.
When she returned, she said that the charge nurse would not allow Novalee to stay. Instead, she offered me a room in a building adjacent to the hospital for $22 a night.
The catch was that I would have to leave my sick, 18 month-old son alone, overnight, in the same hospital that my grandmother had died in a year and a half earlier.
I couldn’t do it.
That’s when things got ugly.
The nurse in charge of the overnight shift came and explained that there was no way the hospital would allow me to stay with my son and my daughter. And while I understood the hospital’s need to have the overnight policy in place for liability reasons, I found it unreasonable to expect a mother, dealing with the stress of a sick child and an unexpected out-of-town hospital stay, to be forced into choosing between my babies.
If I wanted to continue feeding my daughter, I’d have to leave my son’s bedside.
I tried my best to be reasonable. This wasn’t a case of not having a babysitter. I’m a nursing mother with an infant that needs to be fed (and that won’t take a bottle). I explained to them that I would be willing to sign a waiver of liability. They argued that by staying on the floor overnight she would be exposed to contagious illness. I pointed out that her brother did not have a communicable disease, and that she was no more exposed during the evening hours than she had been earlier that day. If anything, it’s less of a risk at nighttime because I’m not out in the hallways with her.
The nurse refused to back down, and because I felt like the hospital would rather me take my focus off of my sick baby and spend my energy worrying about how my daughter was going to get fed, I told her I wanted my son to be transferred to the closest children’s hospital. One that I knew would not try to split up my children and I in the middle of the night.
Without having any valid reasons, she told me that I couldn’t have him transferred, so then I said that I would sign him out of the hospital and transfer him myself. (At that point, he had been stabilized so there was no danger in moving him to another nearby hospital.)
What the nurse said to me next was so beyond ridiculous, that I still can’t believe what I heard. She said there was no way I would be allowed to leave the hospital with him and that basically from the moment the ambulance brought him in, he was in custody of the hospital and that they were in control of all of the decisions involving him and his care.
According to her, I had relinquished all my parental rights as soon as we walked through the door.
I wasn’t intimated by her load of crap the way she had hoped I would be. I told her flat out that there was no way any parent in their right mind would ever admit their child into a hospital if it meant they were handing over custody to that institution. I requested to speak to hospital administration immediately.
The charge nurse left, and for the next several minutes I was nervous that she might be calling security to come and escort me out. While I waited, Daegan’s night nurse came by to check him and she apologized profusely for what was going on. I felt bad for putting her in such an awkward position. She couldn’t do anything to resolve the issue and she understood why I felt the way I did.
Eventually, Nurse Ratched came back and said that because it was now almost midnight, the hospital would allow Novalee to stay. She explained that “Social Services” would be by in the morning to come up with other arrangements. I’m still not sure what she meant when she said that (nobody from “social” anything ever visited my son’s room) unless maybe it was a last-ditch effort to rattle me.
The hospital’s tone had completely changed by the following morning. The pediatric unit’s nurse manager came by and apologized for the charge nurse’s bullying. She explained that hospital policy is flexible in our situation and that because Novalee is a nursing infant she could stay in Daegan’s room for as long as needed. In fact, once he was discharged, the manager said that if we ever were back for another stay and encountered the same problem we could talk to her and she would fix it immediately.
So, one less thing to worry about. Especially since, unfortunately, there could be another visit there for us in the near future. At Daegan’s last visit the doctor diagnosed him as being hyperglycemic. However, considering what has happened, it’s more likely than not that Daegan is Type I diabetic and in the “honeymoon” phase after receiving his first dose of insulin at the hospital.
That means that when and if his blood sugar levels start to rise, he’ll need to be hospitalized again.
And on another note, thank you for all the comments of support and well wishes for my boys right now. I’m sorry I haven’t had the time to respond to each individually or to comment on my usual blog reads in return, but I really appreciate all the thoughts and prayers that come our way. The medical puzzle we are in is quite complex and we still have many more questions than answers, but I do have more updates that I hope to post soon.