For those of us that has had the unfortunate luck to spend any length of time in the hospital with a child or loved one, you can probably appreciate the depth of exhaustion that comes with it. There is absolutely no rest. Tired does not even begin adequately define how your body and soul feels. It doesn't matter how many times you have been in and out of that setting, it never changes. It is a 24 hour a day revolving door.
Matthew was hospitalized again last week with a virus and dehydration. One thing led to another, as it always does, and his heart rate dropped. A person's heart rate will almost always increase in the setting of dehydration, but for some still unknown reason, his decided to drop and hover in the 40's and 50's. Initially he was admitted to a hospital close to home that we rarely use for him. All of his specialist are nearly two hours away and this is typically where we go. But, in this case, we assumed it would be a simple admit for fluids and observation. I should have known nothing is ever text book with him.
As we got settled in, the constant stream of residents, nurses, hospitalists, techs, housekeeping, dietary, and the mail man (not really, but it sounded good), began to rain in. The same history and background that I have spewed out countless times over the years to new doctors was recited for yet another team. His complex renal history is always of interest, especially to the eager med students and residents. It is so tiring to go through it each and every time.
Being close to home this time, we had the comfort of visits from his little brother and daddy. We were also pleased to have some visits from some other friends. They were perfectly timed visits. Prayers were offered up, a quick word of hello, and well wishes. This was certainly a treat and a welcome distraction to the necessary evils of a hospitalization. When we are in New Orleans, a visitor is nearly unheard of due to the distance. There have been many times over the years where the walls can almost feel as though they are closing in.
But, how long is an appropriate amount of time to stay if you visit in the hospital. Five minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour? There is not magic number. Every situation differs. It can vary greatly. I think it takes some common sense on the part of the visitor. You need to assess the condition of the person you are visiting. Are they napping? Are they in pain? For me personally, I have made it a rule of thumb that I just don't visit in the hospital, unless it is a close family member or a close friend. If it is just an acquaintance I would not want to chance bringing anything to someone that is trying to heal. A germ that may not bother me, could become serious business to someone with a weakened immune system. If I do visit someone that I am close to, I am careful to watch the time and not overstay. If I want to chat with someone, we can do that on much more pleasant terms when they are feeling better.
Visits can be exhausting to Matthew. He is one that always feels the need to be polite and "entertain" if you will. He likes to engage in conversation. When you are sick, you just don't have the energy to do those things. I thought back to his very first hospitalization in 2007. After three days in the PICU, I finally cornered his nurse and pleaded with her with tears rolling down my face to help me find a way to limit his visitors. There was a FLOOD of people who wanted to come by to see Matthew, and to check on me and Billy. This was something that we truly and genuinely appreciated. Every visit was with good intentions. However, the sheer volume of people was beginning to be overwhelming. We were asked the same questions over and over again that we just didn't have the answers to. I was too emotionally exhausted to politely ask that visitors keep their voices low and visits short. No one could even really talk to Matthew, he was just too sick.
Matthew's sweet nurse assured me that she could help out. A sign was made and placed on his door that read only two visitors at a time and visits must be limited to 5 minutes or less. She went on to tell me that each nurse from shift to shift would be notified.
I don't guess there is a "right" or "perfect" setting for anyone that is sick and in the hospital. Too many visitors can be overwhelming; and no visitors can be lonely. If there was only a way to just wiggle our noses and create the perfect environment at the exact time we need it. Just as with anything in life, it's about balance. Thankfully nearly everyone has been respectful and has allowed Matthew the rest that his necessary to heal each time.
He is home now and feeling much better. Thankfully! God has again heard our prayers! Back to school tomorrow.