Recently my baby son was admitted to hospital. Here's what happened:
It was about 10am when my wife rang me. I was in the office, sitting at my desk, still trying to wake up and contemplating actually doing some work.
"Get home now." she said. She was crying.
"I've taken Noah to the doctors. They've said he needs to go into hospital."
I hung up, threw on my coat and dashed out of the office, stopping momentarily to stick my head into a meeting room and garble something incoherent to my boss about my son in hospital.
Noah, our seven month-old, had suffered from a cold and cough for a couple of days, but we'd just chalked it up to a winter bug. To put our minds at rest, we'd agreed that morning to get him looked over by our GP. We were expecting the doctor to simply prescribe antibiotics; instead, she'd taken one look at him and pointed us in the direction of the nearest hospital.
Half an hour later, and we're in Warwick Hospital, hurrying down the corridors as we make our way to MacGregor Ward. Jess is clutching Noah, I'm carrying about three overnight bags.
We're shown to a room where we wait for the doctor to come around. A nurse enters and asks us a thousand questions, which we answer. She leaves. A student doctor enters and asks us the same questions, which we answer. Noah is sleepy, eyelids red, looking really unwell.
My wife and I are both very British, stiff-upper-lipped people. I can't remember the last time I cried over anything; I don't scream and shout like some in other cultures when stuck in heavy traffic. Instead, I mutter to myself about 'rotters' and 'cads'. And so we sit patiently in the hospital room and we wait for the best part of an hour.
Even if we weren't so stoically British, I still think it is important to act with respect and dignity in situations such as this. Screaming and shouting at nurses to hurry up, or dragging a doctor by the collar into your room won't help anything or anyone. Obviously, if Noah had suddenly deteriorated, we would have called for help; but he was OK. Unwell, sure, but certainly not in any life-threatening danger - and, in comparison to the condition of some of the kids on the ward, fighting fit.
We wait, then, and I smirk as I overhear a doctor questioning a couple in the next room.
"Do you both smoke in the house?" he asks.
"Well, it's no surprise your child's having breathing problems then, is it?"
Finally, the doctor enters, checks Noah over, and states that he will need an IV drip and antibiotics. Blood will also need to be taken - later, the results diagnose Noah with bronchiolitis: a common complaint in babies under one, but only 3% of cases result in hospitalisation.
The IV drip is placed; a wholly unpleasant experience for both a screaming Noah and us. Jess - who has a fear of needles - holds out for a while but ends up feeling faint and staggering out of the room on Bambi legs.
The drip replenishes Noah's lost fluids - his nasal passages are so blocked that he has trouble breathing when feeding, and as a result isn't getting enough food - and also provides a means of administering antibiotics.
We await the results of the blood test and a subsequent X-ray; when the doctor returns he tells us that Noah will be in overnight. This, obviously, is not good news. The doctor leaves, and we sit in the hospital room, watching TV.
The majority of time in a hospital is spent waiting, and it doesn't take long for cabin fever to set in. This will often result in terrible crankiness that not even dry hospital food can cure. Again, it is important not to take your frustration and boredom out on your partner; it doesn't help anyone, and will only lead to more stress.
At about 8pm, I head off to pick up Isaac - our three year-old - from his grandparents' house, leaving Jess with Noah. I offer to stay over, but there's no way she would ever leave Noah for a whole night.
On the way home, the day's events catch up with me; and, for the first time in years, I have a little cry. Not enough to send tears streaming down my face, but enough to blur my vision and cause me to be a danger to other road users.
Two days later, Noah's out of hospital; looking "much more alive", as the doctor so succinctly put it, but still under the weather. Two weeks on, and he's still snotty, but much better than he was. I can't fault the service we were given during our hospital stay: I've never had a bad experience at the hands of the NHS in my life.
But I have taken one lesson away with me: if one of my kids has to go into hospital again, remember to bring a DVD player.
Other articles on Parentdish: Making sick days better