Hospital’s a far cry from my 1980s experience – Hayley Matthews

A busy ward at the Sick Kids in 1989. Much has changed in the treatment of children since then
A busy ward at the Sick Kids in 1989. Much has changed in the treatment of children since then
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Earlier on in the week it was a big day for us, we were going through to St John’s hospital in Livingston for Harris to finally get his tonsils out.

I’ve mentioned before how Harris has never slept well (which is an understatement) and I can’t tell you the joy I was feeling that day, knowing that after the operation, he was about to start getting a much better quality of life. The thought of him getting a full night’s sleep almost had me in tears. I was skipping in to the hospital!

That feeling, however, was tempered by the reminder of the operation that I went through in the early 80s and I had to let go of my anxieties attached to having tonsils and adenoids removed. I was four and remember it vividly, waking up after the operation, throwing up all over the nurse, it was horrific. It felt and looked like a scene from True Blood. There I was little four-year-old Hayley spewing red stuff all over the nurse sitting beside me in her crisp white uniform and my little teddy bear Rosie, yup she got it too.

I vividly remember sitting in a bath with a bar of Pears soap and no family about. The environment felt cold, sterile and very uncomfortable. I didn’t get anyone to stay with me when I was going under anaesthetic, nor did I have anyone there for me when I came round. I didn’t have a parent staying overnight with me and to top it all off I remember freaking out when the dad of the girl who was in the bed next to me started putting my Care Bear nightie in his daughters case thinking it was hers.

To say I was distraught was mild. I couldn’t have asked for it back even if I could have spoken to him. I was told if I drank loads of juice I could go home and remember taking four cups, drinking them all and asking if I could leave. Not a chance. It felt like the longest few days ever.

Nowadays, the experience is far easier, more comfortable and I’d even say more pleasant for the kids too. The pre-op was like a relaxed playdate with a couple of nurses and a worry tree that took away all the issues and problems that were swirling through Harris’s head. It was “like it could read my mind” said Harris after dumping his worries on to a piece of plastic bark, but it worked.

A promise of piping hot macaroni cheese after the op and a parent staying and he was fine with it.

We all got to accompany Harris to the operating ward, and baby Oryn drove down in a pink mini beeping at the staff as we glided along the corridors. Kenny was with Harris when the surgeons administered the anaesthetics and we felt reassured which I believe helped Harris relax.

In less than an hour the op was over and we were both by his side as he came round. I climbed in to the bed with Harris in the recovery area and reassured my little boy. There were lots of cuddles in the children’s ward as well as us being able to comfort and reassure Harris and it all went smoothly. I know which way I’d rather have it if I had to choose.

We’ve moved on so far with regards to helping children and I’m very grateful to the nurses, doctors and surgeons who were all incredible as always. Harris thanked them with some donuts and I might have sneaked in one on the way in to the ward. After all, I am in the recovery team.