"After an inconclusive ultrasound and MRI, we were told by the surgeon that chances were good that the tumor was benign but, until surgery was completed, we wouldn't know for sure.
How could we help our five-year-old to get through her hospital experience in a way that would render her cooperative, less fearful, and not traumatized?
I can truthfully say, "Trust Hadassah Hospital to have the winning formula!"
Racheli and her parents met with the highly recommended surgeon and his assistant, and the meeting went very well. She felt comfortable with them both--and now that she knew her doctors, it was not like going to strangers.
I called the hospital social worker, asking for any help available in making Racheli's hospital experience a good one.
She was kind and helpful, arranging for an introductory session and a preparation workshop that Hadassah has in place, so that children can learn what awaits them in the hospital. Racheli attended this and returned home happy and excited to share what she'd learned. In fact, this preparation was so excellent that it made her more relaxed about the upcoming surgery and, therefore, we as a family felt very good as well.
On the day before surgery, Racheli was physically and emotionally ready. Together with her father, she headed for Hadassah Hospital- Ein Kerem. She happily put on her hospital pajamas, unpacked her things in her new room, went to the childrens' activity area to play, and then joined her father in some 'bikur cholim' (visiting the sick) medical clowning for many of the patients in the Childrens' Pavillion. By evening, her mother was there with her, too.
Racheli was off to a very good start.
On the day of the surgery, Racheli awoke a bit cautious and uncertain, but quickly recalled what she'd learned about the operation and operating room. She entered the operating room with her parents by her side. When she awoke after the operation, they were with her again. Right away, she remembered that she could choose which flavor of medication to receive and, when she opened her eyes, she said, "I want strawberry flavor!"--which she promptly got.
I have no doubt that the surgeon's skill and Racheli's preparation and feelings of security within the hospital setting made a great difference in her experience of pain. Only twice post-surgery did she mention any discomfort at all and, then, Acamol (Tylenol) was sufficient to remove any pain. How unexpected and wonderful!
Much to our surprise, and Racheli's, she was up and about within hours--her same active self, even using the affected arm!
I spent the second day and third night with Racheli at Hadassah. Let me recall the comments she made and you'll have a 'bird's eye view' of what a child can feel in this hospital.
Racheli loved the pattern and colors of her hospital pajamas and that it was easy to button-up by herself. She loved being allowed to go to the supply closet to get fresh, clean pajamas for herself, when she needed a change. She liked the pattern on the curtains in her room and enjoyed pulling the curtains open and closed, choosing when to have privacy and when to see her roommate. She liked the two colorful crocodile paintings on the wall and she found the train and train track ceiling tiles very interesting. She liked having a bed that could be adjusted in various ways and she even loved the meals, served on a tray, with lots of foods that she loves. She told me that a nurse will come to help her if she rings her special button and she felt she'd be listened to and helped when she needed something from the nurses' station. She especially loved the activity area, the variety of projects provided, the plentiful supplies, and the kind, helpful staff there. They are to be commended for the especially fine job they do!
We were also treated to use of the Snoezelen Room, with its soothing waterbed mattress, fiber optic lights, colorful bubble tube, and soft cuddle toys--a real treat!
From the point of view of the 'attending savta' (grandma), I have only the highest praise for the doctors and the nursing staff. They were there for Racheli whenever needed, with kindness and great patience, even at the end of their shift!
All in all, we feel blessed beyond words that Racheli was lucky enough to have had her surgery at Hadassah-Ein Kerem. Armed with age-appropriate knowledge, a supportive family, and a hospital staff that I wish I could clone and send to every hospital, she had not entered into a fearful experience that was beyond her control. Instead, she has been put in good stead for any future hospital experiences.
When friends phoned, visitors came, and hospital staff asked her, 'Racheli, are you ready to go home?' her forceful response was 'NO!' As she explained, 'I am on chofesh (vacation) and now I have a baking class in the activity room and I cannot go yet.' Wow! I'd say that's a great recommendation!
Before we left the hospital, she told me, 'Savta, do you know that I was born in this hospital? And I'm going to have my babies in this hospital one day, too! Good enough!
Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, I watched my mother and her fellow Hadassah ladies work long hours to raise funds for the 'BIG project': Hadassah Hospital. How grateful I am to them and to the entire Hadassah organization for its gargantuan efforts to ensure the existence of such a fine hospital--and to the hard-working teams that keep it in operation for us today!
I pray that Racheli's wish, to become an imma (mother) at Hadassah Hospital, will become a 'wish come true'!
Jackie (Hoffman) Lowenstein, Jerusalem