Every six months we get to take a 2+ hour road trip to the children’s hospital for LoveBug’s cardiology checkup for her pulmonary stenosis (you can read more about that here). I’m really not sure which is the worst part, being stuck in the car with three kids who would rather be running around, the long wait at the hospital, or all the anxiety leading up to her exam and hearing the results. That’s not even counting the actual exam itself. Have you ever tried to get a one-year-old to be still so someone can give her an echocardiogram? Not fun. With all the trips we’ve taken to the hospital I feel like we’re finally getting into a good routine, so I thought I’d share some tips with you on preparing for a hospital checkup.
Decide what time you need to be there (typically 15-20 minutes before your appointment time), and plan accordingly. How long does it take you to drive there? Add extra time for potty stops (if the drive is long enough for that) and for getting everyone in and out of the car. If it completely derails your normal daily schedule, plan how to adjust. Do you need to eat lunch early? Skip the morning nap? Let them sleep in a little? Write down your plan, and make sure you communicate. Don’t assume everyone is on the same page. This is stressful enough without getting confused about unclear plans.
Our first trip up there, we packed the bare essentials. We figured we would be home by dinner, so we took enough diapers, clothes, and bottles to last the twins for the day (nothing for us), and we were a bit unprepared when we ended up staying there for three days. Thankfully my mom was visiting us, so we were able to leave our son at home with her. Ever since that first visit, I pack lots of extra clothes and toiletries for everyone. Maybe it’s superstitious, but my perspective is that if I pack it, we won’t need it. So now when we’re getting ready, I pack two extra outfits for each child, plus an overnight bag with the necessities for my husband and me. We also bring lots of snacks, chargers for our devices, and books. What’s that phrase? Hope for the best, plan for the worst? True story.
Do as much as you can the day or night before the appointment.
Pack the bags, load the strollers, and do anything you can to streamline the process for the day of the appointment. If you need to bring any medical records, insurance papers, or other important items, pack them all the day before so you’re not in a frenzied hurry trying to find them five minutes before you have to leave. The less you have to do before getting out the door, the better.
Bring entertainment for everyone.
Our appointments are never on time, and they take FOREVER. So after we travel for over two hours, we sit around in waiting rooms and exam rooms. All in all, we usually leave the hospital about 4 hours after getting there. Then we’re back in the car with three kids who try their hardest to stay awake in the car. So I make sure to bring toys, books, and entertainment for all three kids. I also pack a book for myself, but I’m usually making sure everyone else is happy (and behaving), so I never get to open it.
It’s okay to be superstitious.
Like I said above, I firmly believe that if I pack way more than we’ll actually need, then we won’t need it at all. The one time I didn’t pack extra, we needed it. Also, the night before we have Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups for dessert. Not sure why, but it has become a tradition of sorts, so I’m sticking with that! Do whatever you need to do to feel like you’ve got plenty of good juju!
Have a backup plan.
Just in case all the preparing and superstitions didn’t work, you need a backup plan should the worst happen and you don’t get to go home. If you have pets, have a family member or neighbor on-call to take care of them for you. Give your boss a heads up that things should go okay at the appointment, but there’s always a tiny chance you might need a few extra days off.
If you have a child with a chronic condition, my heart goes out to you. You know all about the frequent checkups and the stress involved. But preparing makes me feel like I’ve got a little more control over the situation. So I make my to-do lists, my lists of what to pack for each of us, and I obsess over the travel details. Then I cross my fingers that it all worked out and that LoveBug’s heart is good to go for another six months.
Since writing this, we took LoveBug for her echocardiogram, and she did amazing! She yelled and screamed at every doctor, nurse, med student, and technician that touched her, but she finally made friends with the sonogram tech who was doing her echo. (Food helps y’all! Always bring lots of snacks!) Her heart is looking exactly like it should, and we don’t have to go back for another checkup for a WHOLE YEAR!!! WOOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!