After a wait of over two months, my daughter finally went to the hospital about her vertigo. As it happens, I’m pleased to say she’s had no more episodes, but I still felt it was important to go. I wanted to know if it had run its course or if it was likely to come back at any time.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thorough check-up. The doctor asked my daughter about what happened when she got the dizziness – exactly how it felt, how long it lasted, whether there were any other symptoms (there weren’t) etc. Were there any triggers we’d noticed? I’d kept a diary of food, drink and sleep for over a month and couldn’t see any connection. Then she asked about everything from whether she was born on time (due date, it doesn’t get more on time than that!) and if it was a normal delivery to whether she has any birthmarks (one large one on her forehead), her brothers’ ages, whether she or any one in the family has any respiratory problems etc etc. There was no stone left unturned.
Then it was onto a physical examination – her arms, her legs, her stomach, her eyes. She checked that everything was moving and reacting normally. It was reassuring to me that she was taking it so seriously and checking everything so thoroughly.
Her blood pressure was checked three times, because it was a bit low. Funnily enough, my first thought when she got dizzy initially was low blood pressure. My blood pressure is always on the low side and my daughter is pretty fit, so I would have expected her blood pressure to be low too. The doctor’s feeling was that it wasn’t caused by the blood pressure. It was most likely vertigo or labrinthitis, which may now be gone for good or may come back.
She said to my daughter: ‘You do drink enough, don’t you?’.
Drinking is a sore point, because my daughter most definitely doesn’t drink enough. The only drinks I can guarantee she will drink properly are a glass of orange juice in the morning and another before bed. She doesn’t drink a mouthful of her water at school and rarely finishes her small cup of apple juice with her tea. I’ve recently started giving her a carton of smoothie in the afternoon (very expensive!), just to help her stay hydrated and also help with the five a day she is lacking. The doctor said she should be drinking 1.5 litres a day. I think she is drinking less than a litre most of the time.
The doctor said: ‘It’s probably not caused it, but it won’t help’.
She needs to make a concerted effort to drink more.
With none of the checks showing any problems, the doctor decided she should have an ECG heart trace and a urine sample just in case.
She explained to my girl about how the sticky things would be dotted around her chest and on her arms with a wire to a machine. ‘
‘And you need to do a wee in a pot,’ I told her. I thought ‘wee in a pot’ sounded friendlier and less daunting than ‘urine sample’. But suddenly I was left with a very stressed out and frightened little girl. She didn’t understand what was happening, but she didn’t want it done. She didn’t want to wee in a pot, she didn’t know how to and, anyway, she didn’t need a wee.
The hospital did their best to make things easy for her. She got her ECG done immediately. But she was terrified. She cried as she got undressed. I showed her, then the technician showed her, the sticky things which would be put on her. But she was crying and saying she didn’t want it done. She thought it would hurt.
The sticky things were painless. The wires were clipped to them so quickly and efficiently. The trace of her heart took one minute. And then it was over.
Then there was just the ‘wee in a pot’. They’d provided a funnel, which made things a lot easier. My daughter had literally no idea how she would manage to wee in a pot and she certainly didn’t want to try to work it out. I helped her with the funnel and, like the ECG, it was quick and easy.
But the whole thing made me realise that children don’t understand as much as we think they do. She’s a mature, intelligent 8 year old girl. The ECG had been explained to us both and I understood perfectly – I saw my younger son have it done as a newborn and I’ve seen enough films and TV programmes to be able to imagine exactly what was going to happen. My daughter didn’t have that experience. She thought she was going to be put inside a big machine and she was understandably frightened. Her head had filled in the gaps of the doctor’s explanation and that’s what she’d come up with.
As for weeing in a pot – that was something she’d never had to do before and never seen done. She didn’t know that people have to wee in pots sometimes as a way of checking their health. And why would she? She’s only 8.
The good news is, all the tests showed we have nothing to worry about. But it got me thinking about how we explain these medical procedures to children. She went to see the paediatrician, but even a paediatrician couldn’t explain well enough to an 8 year old exactly what was going to happen to her.
What are your experiences of children in hospital?