The 15-Minute Conversation 3 Moms Had on the 4th Floor of a Children’s Hospital
We were at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this week. Our little guy, Evan, was getting his third set of tubes, having his adenoids removed again, having dental work and having his airways examined for signs of reflux. The surgery was considered minor, and it was planned as an outpatient procedure, but when Evan experienced croup cough and airway swelling after the procedure, the experience morphed into an overnight stay. We weren’t thrilled, but we knew it was best for Evan, so we waited for a bed and eventually found ourselves on 4 East.
It took Evan a little time to get in and get comfortable. Surgery is tricky for him, and he comes out of anesthesia a little bit combative and a lot cranky. We were checked in, and he calmed down, so we ordered his dinner — soft foods because of the surgery.
After I made the order, I looked up, and I saw a mom in the hallway, pulling her child in a wagon. I looked at her child, and for a second I froze and experienced a momentary elation. Her little one had the beautiful characteristic almond-shaped eyes of a child with Down syndrome. It was wonderful to know we weren’t the only ones in the hospital with a child with Down syndrome…we weren’t even the only ones on our floor.
To fill the time before Evan’s dinner arrived, I grabbed a Little Tikes car and pushed Evan around the floor until he tired of it and decided he needed Daddy time. When I returned the car, I ran into the mom of the other little boy with Down syndrome, and we started talking. It’s funny. Whenever I run into these moms it’s like we’re part of a club we never knew we wanted to be members of. Being card-carrying members, we can just approach and begin discussion.
Our conversation started at, “How old is your little one” and it went right into big stuff… unexpected diagnoses despite multiple ultrasounds, heart defects and surgeries our kids endured, including the one that had us in the hospital now. And she told me we weren’t the only two families on the 4th Floor East Wing with children with Down syndrome — there was a family with a little girl too.
At just that moment, the little girl’s mom came walking down the hall, and suddenly, it was like a Trisomy 21 family reunion, a safe zone where we can all talk about therapy, specialists, surgeries, hopes, dreams, fears, and we all just get it. No glazed over eyes when we’re honest, no deer-in-the-headlights look if we fully answer the question about how things are going. We talked about tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A), about sleep studies and severe sleep apnea. The mom with the other little boy hadn’t had a sleep study yet. The little girl’s mother and I both urged her to schedule one. We both knew so many people (the two of us included) who were surprised with a child’s severe sleep apnea diagnoses and subsequently had to have a T&A.
After about 15 minutes of chatting, Evan’s meal arrived, and we all went our separate ways. My family left the hospital yesterday, and it dawned on me that none of us introduced ourselves, though we each said the names of our children numerous times. I find that happens a lot when moms of kids with Down syndrome have a fortuitous meeting… in a grocery store, at the mall, or in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It’s as if the importance of introductions is secondary to the importance of the information-sharing and an attentive, empathetic ear.
For me, those 15 minutes felt like a mini vacation, a girls’ night out with old friends. Those 15 minutes gave me what so many parents of kids with special needs truly need… some time with people who understand.
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