Going through old correspondence, I found a letter I wrote to UCLA Hospital (L.A.) in 1973. My son was 18 months old and had been very ill and a patient there. I was distressed at what I saw and experienced in the children’s ward. Parents were only allowed to be there during ‘visiting hours’. (Many of us disregarded this unless told to leave.)
When I was there, I changed my child’s diapers and soiled sheets, fed him when possible and if he awoke crying, hearing my voice, he’d wrap his little fingers around mine and fall asleep again. I recall laying on the floor for one or two nights to be there for him. (One night I counted eleven parents sleeping on the chairs in the waiting room — there were no sofas.)
The boy next door was about six and attached to an IV. He called again and again for a nurse until I went over to ask what he needed. He had to go to the bathroom. I walked to the nurses station and forwarded his request, then got busy again with my own child.
When I heard anguished crying, I went to ask what happened. He had been unable to hold it any longer and had soiled himself in bed. He was embarrassed and traumatized. At his age I can only imagine how he felt.
With parents purposely kept away, other children were neglected. One little girl across the way cried from morning til night each day. No one attempted to comfort her. She spoke only Spanish. My letter, therefore, mainly requested they rescind their policy of not allowing parents to remain with their sick children.
I made copies of the letter and mailed it to six people in charge. I never had a reply. The letter, however, did create a reaction. My pediatrician was told that my child and I were BANNED from UCLA, which was very close to our home. After that I was required to drive across town each time my little boy was seriously ill — and he was.
I am pleased that since then things have changed and now parents CAN be with their hospitalized children. Did I play a role in this change? I’d like to think so, but probably not.
What’s been your experience with your own children’s hospitalizations?