July 15, 2012

Cannulas, cannoli and a whole lotta coughing

Waiting in the Emergency Department. Both baby and teddy not doing too well at this stage.
So here I sit, in a ward on the sixth floor of the concrete box of a hospital staring out at the billowing blue blanket of the Pacific Ocean while my 19 month old daughter sleeps next to me, her pink blanketed bottom poking through the bars of her cot, her right cheek mooshed into the mattress. She's all at sea in the giant white hospital cot.

It is day 3 of our stay in the paediatric ward at Mona Vale Hospital. Francesca is riddled with a determined virus that has dossed down in her tiny body and refuses to budge. In her 19 months of life she has been ill for approximately five minutes. We've had none of the usual coughs, colds and bugs, apart from one runny nose last December that looked like it might become a cold but never developed. Now, however, woah! She's doing illness BIG TIME. She's decided to be the Olympic gold medalist for being ill. Our little over-achiever. Bless.

But the antibiotics and steroids and our girl's feisty gumption will win. I have no doubt about that. After all, it is common knowledge, is it not, that fish and house guests go off after three days. We have dropped hints. The virus is not silly. It is sulkily packing its germy bags. But rather than leaving hair in the sink and drinking all the good wine, it's left our little Franny Beth with croup, a nasty ear infection, a swollen trachea that makes breathing difficult, and drug-toxic bowel movements that have got the golfers teeing off on the 18th hole at the adjacent golf course warily checking the bottom of their shoes.

There is much to dislike about hospitals. Cannulas for one thing. The nasty needle tube poking into the soft blue vein of our baby's chubby little hand delivers the fluids and drugs needed to help her get better. But it's an ugly, awkward thing - needle, valves and tubes looped around her hand and strapped in place along her forearm with a splint. Every time she forgets it's there and rubs her eyes, or rolls onto it in her sleep, the IV drip backs up and the machine begins a chorus of annoying beeps, waking the baby and her cranky mother. The only thing I like about the whole cannula rig-up, apart from the fact that it is delivering lifesaving drugs into my daughter, is its name. Cannula. Rolls off the tongue. Sounds like cannoli. Which I am now craving but have no hope of satisfying. This is an institution where broccoli the colour of khaki is not frowned upon. Delicious Italian desserts are as alien as the concept of soft toilet paper.

The IV machine connected to the cannula. I and this machine with its annoying beep will never be friends.
Which brings me to the food. Bad hospital food is a cliche, but I see your 'bad' and I raise you an 'inedible ghastliness'. If you like your scrambled eggs to look like lumpy ear wax soup and your fish mornay to resemble cat sick, then this is the restaurant for you. Sure, you have to be sick to get in here, but if you can fake it till you are admitted, you are guaranteed to be genuinely sick after meal three in this place.

Banana smoothies were Francesca's preferred sustenance whilst interred. I hope Janine Allis enjoys her new house extension.
The only other con is that, despite my own hacking cough, aching head and running nose, the staff here are unable to supply me with any drugs. I'm like the kid in the proverbial candy store with not a dime to spend. This was only a problem for the ten minutes it took me to scrounge around in my cesspit of a handbag to dig out a mangy panadol capsule and the next morning the Codral cavalry arrived along with fresh knickers and my toothbrush so all was well.


The pros far outweigh the cons at Mona Vale Hospital and here's why.

Firstly, the view is outstanding. Having 180 degree views of the ocean, dunes, headlands and golf course is most conducive to recovery and very calming on the nerves of frazzled, worried parents. Mona Vale Hospital may be uglier than the love child of a Rubik's cube and a Soviet vodka factory but it will always have this magical view.

The staff are, quite simply, wonderful. They are a happy, kind, warm & totally professional bunch which brings me to the conclusion that they are well trained, love what they do and obviously bring their own meals from home.

The paediatrician is a young (about my age so yeah, totally young. Ish) professional doctor with a beautiful bedside manner (Francesca was 'darling') and clearly very good at what he does. He also works at Sydney Children's Hospital and has consulted with the ENT specialist there regarding Francesca's case. I love that collaborative approach. It gives us enormous comfort, knowing that our baby girl is in great hands. At no time have we felt that we're in some medical backwater being treated by retired GPs and junior registrars. No offence to retired GPs and junior registrars. I'm sure you're all lovely and good at what you do. But this illness cries out for 'specialist'.

So who cares if the handle fell off our ward door today. Or the tap in the bathroom runs like a . . . um . . . a tap. Or the chicken nuggets resemble sawdust-coated erasers.

We're in the best possible place while our lil Cesca-Luna battles this lurgy. And win the battle she will.

So I sit here, not feeling worried, but feeling lucky and incredibly grateful. I will get to take my baby home and this illness will be a distant memory in the not too distant future. There are children that spend more time in hospital than out. Like my brave and beautiful cousin who, in her 27 years has had to endure endless procedures and operations and even organ transplants. My admiration for her and my aunt and uncle is almost tangible. Then there are children that don't get to go home at all. And of course, the parents who do go home, but without a child. There are also millions of children who don't get the benefit of a hospital at all, or medical care of any kind. And my heart breaks a little bit as I think about all these children and their families.

So I'll bundle up all my inconsequential first world problems and blow them away across the car park and the grassy dunes where the dogs and their owners stride about, out into the endless blue of the Pacific where they will sink without a trace.

I wrote this (on a piece of paper! with a pen!!) while Francesca was in hospital last weekend. She came home on Tuesday after 5 days at Mona Vale and has made a full recovery. Apart from a few hiccups with her sleep routine, we are all back to normal and eating broccoli a more palatable shade of green. Oh, and I had a cannoli with my coffee this morning and didn't think about cannulas once!


  1. Ahhh Mona Vale hospital... 28 years ago I delivered my beautiful baby girl there, Jasmin Rachel ! Thank goodness Francesca was in the same good hands :) xo. Cathy Coster

    1. Cath I know lots of gals who've loved having their babies at Mona Vale. I hope they reopen the maternity wing soon. Meanwhile, I can't believe your darling gazelle is 28!! xx

  2. This bought a tear to my eye Michelle! So glad our sweet Bella Francesca has made a full recovery. Great job mama
    Taylor x

    1. Thanks beautiful. I see cupcakes in our near future! By the way, I need another twosweetstars fix soon so get writing! xx

    2. If you don't send this to a magazine I will become very upste with you and I WILL visit next time I am in Sydney. So do it Michelle. You have a wonderful way with words. Andrea xx


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