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    8 Things That Happened When My Child Was In Hospital

    Because the worst situation you could ever imagine doesn't have to mean the end of the world.

    1. You’ll feel like you’re going mad.

    Alice Judge-Talbot

    Babies can't tell you when they're poorly, and young children find it hard to articulate their pain, too. But as any parent will tell you, you know when your child is ill. Call it mother's instinct, call it a sixth sense, but you know.

    Though trying to articulate this to healthcare professionals can be impossible. When my daughter wouldn't eat as a newborn baby her weight fell to a dangerous level. For two months I took her to see either a nurse or GP once a week, and for two months I was written off as a neurotic first-time mother. I knew something was wrong but I was so worn down by doctors and nurses telling me everything was fine that I didn't know how to fight for my child.

    It took a physiotherapist at an unrelated appointment to tell me that I wasn't going crazy and I should persist with following my mother's instinct: I took my baby to A&E that day and she was immediately admitted to hospital. I was told that day she was so weak and her potassium and sodium levels so skewed she was hours away from a heart attack.

    My only regret from that time is that I didn't trust my instincts more: I wish I'd had the strength to fight for a second opinion from a different doctor.

    2. You will thank your lucky stars.

    Your situation might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to bear, but you’ll soon realise just how comparatively lucky you are.

    My daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition after spending a week in hospital at 2 months old. She’s one of only about 180 people in the world with this disease and it will affect her for the rest of her life. It’s a condition that affects her adrenal gland, blood sugars, and hormones and I liken her day-to-day care to someone with diabetes.

    In the first few weeks of her diagnosis there were many things to come to terms with, many things that were devastating to me as a mother. As a baby, her condition was so fragile she was cared for on the oncology ward, thought to be the most safe children’s ward in the hospital for her as there were no infectious illnesses there.

    Being around so much sadness and strength in these early days saved me: Yes, my daughter would continue to face health hurdles for her entire life, but if these young people and their parents could face cancer head-on, I could handle a genetic disease no problem.

    From that day on I thanked my lucky stars that, though my daughter would have to live life differently to other children, she had the opportunity to be alive.

    3. You will cope, much to your surprise.

    Alice Judge-Talbot

    The questions I was asked more than any others in the weeks and months and years following my daughter’s diagnosis were: How on earth are you coping with all this? How are you still smiling? How are you carrying on with life?

    The answer is simple: There’s no choice. There’s no time to fall apart as the parent of a poorly child. You have a whole new lexicon to learn, a language of sodium levels, adrenal crisis, blood sugars. You have to learn to administer medications and give injections. This is impossible if you’re busy falling apart, so you simply don’t.

    4. You will learn more than you ever thought possible.

    Speaking of which, you’ll impress yourself with your new-found medical knowledge. You’ll go from feeling out of your depth in every conversation you have with a doctor to frantically googling syndromes and genes, learning more than you ever thought possible. Medical jargon will no longer puzzle and scare you, as you’ll understand the numbers all those machines and test results are constantly spewing out.

    They say forewarned is forearmed, and that’s never truer than when you’re dealing with a poorly child.

    5. You’ll discover who your real friends are.

    Alice Judge-Talbot

    People in your life will soon fall into two categories: those who keep in touch and those who slide off the grid. I’m still incredibly grateful for those friends who, even though they may not have given any grand gestures, reached out and said, “I’m here for you.” I’ll never forget the ones who didn’t.

    If you have a friend dealing with a similar situation, that’s all it takes. Let them know you’re there for them, whenever they’re ready. Check in once a week just to say hi. They’ll call on you when it’s time.

    6. You will need to take care of yourself.

    If your child has a long-term stay in hospital, you might get a fold-out bed by the side of your child’s cot or bed. But chances are, you’ll be spending your nights tucked up on a wipe-clean chair.

    Either way, sleeping on a noisy hospital ward isn’t easy, especially if your child is being observed throughout the night. You’ll probably want to be around at these times to check current levels, hold hands for blood tests, or simply just to be there.

    But looking after your child when they’re sick takes stamina and strength, and you won’t have this on two hours' sleep a night. Accept help from a spouse, good friend, or family member when it’s offered: Go home, have a shower, take a nap. You’ll be a much better parent for it.

    You’ll also need to give yourself the time to come to terms with what’s been happening to your child. It’s a sad, strange, and scary time, and this will hit you at one point or another. For me it was about two years after my daughter was diagnosed: I like to think I put all my feelings in a box when she was so poorly in hospital, opening it only when I was ready and able to deal with them.

    When this happened I took time to sit, think, and sometimes just cry. Writing my feelings down helped, as did spending quality one-on-one time with my daughter to remind myself just how lucky I am that she’s here and I’m able to, along with her wonderful doctors, keep her healthy.

    7. Your heart will break.

    I mean, how could it not? Seeing your child so ill, poked with needles, tubes going in and coming out of them…this situation will always be awful. Take each day as it comes, drink water (and coffee!), and make sure you’re eating enough. It won’t make it better but it will keep you going.

    8. You will be OK.

    Alice Judge-Talbot

    Sometimes, in the darkest of moments, you will wonder how life will ever be normal again. But, as I sit across from my energetic 6-year-old who's reading a magazine, asking me complicated questions about the solar system, and pleading for biscuits I can tell you: It will be OK.

    Your life may not be the "normal" you expected – ours is punctuated by doses of medication, trips to hospital, professors and specialists and nurses – but this is what it takes to be happy and healthy.

    You'll do what you can to own your situation; this year, having never run more than 5k, I'm running the London Marathon to raise money for the teams of specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital who keep children like my daughter alive.

    This year I'm finding my OK in running 26 miles. You'll find yours, too.

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