Having spent an inordinate amount of time in all the children’s hospitals in the Dublin area – that being Crumlin, Tallaght, and Temple Street – it makes sense to turn those (at times) harrowing experiences into something cathartic and perhaps even helpful. Here’s what I wish I’d known heading to A&E for the first time.
• Get the referral letter from your GP. Obviously in an emergency go straight to your nearest paediatric A&E department (easy for me to say given I live in Dublin; WTF does the rest of the country do?) but – where possible – get the letter; it’s the difference of €100.
• If you have time – pack a small bag. If there are only a few things you bring – make them water, wet wipes, hand sanitiser and cash. Otherwise, you’ll be needing snacks (I always go with bananas), your charger, deodorant, change of pants, ear plugs, eye mask – this is just for you – we’ve not even addressed what the child in question will need.
To be honest though, all they need is you with a level head (and a fully charged phone that they can watch shit on).
But trust me on the hand sanitiser… We were referred to A&E once with a suspected case of leukaemia (long story) and came home with the Adenovirus after a nappy change in the toilets. More on that a little later #happyhappyjoyjoy
• Parking is a balls in all three hospitals. Hey, but at least they’re building that New Children’s Hospital on a large plot of land just off the M50 so…. oh…
Anyway, brace yourselves, we’re going to be on this point for a while.
All three paediatric hospitals in the Dublin area have their downsides regarding parking, however, if pressed on which is the absolute worst; all things considered, it would have to be…
1) Temple Street. The glaring stumbling block is that there is simply no parking. Zero. OK, there is something resembling a car park, but it’s so small and always RAMMED it must be for staff. There is a (hand-scrawled) signpost for another car park further down a lane, but it just looks like someone’s renting out their garage.
Once you’ve ventured down this warren of laneways in a bid to locate a fabled car park, and fairly freaked White Rabbit, you will find yourself in a back alley which has most definitely featured in Love/Hate at some point. There is usually a space available here, possibly because it looks like one of the scariest nooks north inner city Dublin has to offer – but it’s only a few minutes walk to the hospital (indeed it is Pay and Display).
And, d’you know what, it served us well for the three years we had to attend outpatients for the 4-year-old’s hips. Just as well as there were f*ck all other options.
2) Taking the second spot for the worst parking is Crumlin. While they have a decent sized car park right beside the A&E department, it comes at a hefty price. It’s €3.50 for the first hour and approximately an extra euro every hour after that. In spite of this, the hospital website states: “It would not be unusual to find yourself in a queue of cars waiting for a space to become available in order to enter the car park.” Because that’s what you need to be doing with a sick/injured child in the back of the car.
The hospital also seems to acknowledge it’s a bit on the pricey side by offering alternatives, such as encouraging “the use of public transport where possible” (eh, nope) and this suggestion which many a parent will hoot at: “Families can avail of the public car park in Iveagh Grounds, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12 at a cost of 2euro per day” – which is only a “10 minute walk away”…
Sure that’s only a STROLL! The child has a fever of 42, has the febriles, is vomming up a storm – plus the shits – let’s all go for a wander first, hah? Go wan, we’ll only be stuck inside all day anyway…
Seriously though, the amount of times I’ve seen a parent bundle themselves and a sick child out the side of a car on Cooley Road, while the other parent has to career around the residential streets surrounding the hospital looking for parking. And if the other parent has to stay home to look after any additional kids, the parent who goes in with the sick child has to walk them to the hospital. It’s just not right…
Then you head back to the car hours, sometimes days, later and the wing mirror’s been kicked off your Micra (true story).
3) The only place that has adequate parking is Tallaght Hospital (which insists on calling itself the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, just to confuse you when you’re stressed to f*ck enough). They even provide the luxury of pay stations actually in the car park, like normal car parks (in Crumlin, you have to pay in the hospital, then walk to the car park). However, there is a glaring pitfall to said car park – if you don’t manage to find a spot on the ground floor (indeed it is multi-story), you are pretty much entering A TINY PORTAL TO HELL IN A HANDCART…
It feels like the very long, steep and very, VERY narrow ramp is giving birth to you and your car and – all going well – you’ll hopefully end up on level one with just a few minor scrapes and retrievable bodywork issues.
To complete the birthing analogy, I went up to level two screaming my head off. It is the LAST thing you need to be doing when you already got the unknown in A&E looming over you.
• Try to avoid going to A&E on a Friday – if at all possible. Listen, obviously if it’s a case of necessity (and usually it is), you must go in, and your GP/out of hours doc will tell you what’s best, I’m just passing on advice imparted to me by a doctor in A&E on more than one occasion.
They don’t know why, but A&E just always seems to be chocka on a Friday! Seemingly the best time to attend A&E is between the hours of 8am and 10am, preferably midweek. Unfortunately, 99.5% children don’t abide by that timeframe.
• Once in there, if your infant has a temperature, be prepared to hover over them for hours on end trying to get a wee sample. Once you happily sidle up to a nurse with your sample, prepare to buckle down to possibly retrieve another sample if they’ve not deciphered what’s wrong with your child.
• So, the doctors have come back and written it off as “something viral”... If you know in your gut that your child is sick and en route to being severely dehydrated – refuse to go home – they will have to admit you. 20 years ago they would have hooked a clearly dehydrated infant up to an IV for fluids and it invariably would’ve helped hugely.
In my experience, on three separate occasions, I have attended A&E with a severely dehydrated infant and been handed a Diorlyte solution and a syringe and told to give them 5 mils orally every 5 minutes. It makes little difference when they’re vomming and shitting everywhere. I should know – I’d been trying to maintain her on just Dioralyte for well over a week.
Again, a doctor advised on refusing to leave. It was obviously in confidence, and it’s hardly revelatory – but if it helps just one family not go through what we went through… Said doctor shared this nugget with me after an incident with the now 4-year-old. At the time, she was 7-months-old and had the aforementioned leukaemia scare.
When we were referred to A&E to get her checked out, she picked up the Adenovirus, which gave her severe coughing and gastroenteritis. She couldn’t keep anything in/down.
For two weeks, I repeatedly brought her back in, but they wouldn’t admit her. They clearly thought I was mental after the GP’s leukaemia scare.
When she finally was admitted, an A&E nurse I’d met earlier that week approached us to say “You should’ve been admitted two days ago”. She knew that, and I knew that, and yet Lara was sent home.
Instead of being hooked up to an IV for a few hours when I first brought her in 10 days prior, she instead had to be admitted for five days straight on fluids – and even then they tried to take her off them too early. One can only assume thanks to cutbacks.
Anyway, I’m rambling now… it’s not been spoken about for a while and effects still run deep. We were only in there a few times (seven to be exact, with two hospitalisations over an 18 month period) – it’s absolutely SFA to those who are immersed in the hospital bubble for weeks, months and years on end. Those kids and their families are fucking superheroes. And so are the staff. They’re trying to do their best under very difficult circumstances.
To recap – Get the GP letter (if you can); pack a bag; PARKING IS SHIT; try to avoid on a Friday (within reason, obviously); prepare for potential wee hovering; if you feel something is still wrong – do not leave.
It’s OK, you’ve got this. And, one day, your tiny sick baby hooked up to a drip will no doubt grow into one of these xx