We’ve gotten to know our local children’s hospital rather well lately – better than I ever really cared to. Thankfully we’ve made our last trip there – at least for a little while, but it definitely makes you consider what the families go through who spend a considerable amount of time navigating the corridors of hospitals like this one on a regular basis.
Almost two weeks ago, Ron, Hannah and I made our third trip downtown to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital (first was for her surgery, and the second for the oncology visit). It’s odd how you feel like an old pro by that point – we knew exactly where to park, that we had to stop at the information booth on the main floor after we crossed the bridge, and even handed over our parking pass for validation before they could ask for it.
On this trip though, we headed downward to Level C – the home of the radiology department and the imaging machines. Hannah’s scans were separated into two days – on Sunday she had her MRI and then on Monday we spend most of the day at the hospital for her CT scan and her bone scan. Lots of stuff that could potentially be scary for a 10-year-old (not to mention her parents) but the hospital staff did a great job of putting us all at ease and explaining exactly what they were going to be doing.
You can definitely tell the difference in a hospital that’s not only used to dealing with kids, but which deals ONLY with kids all day every day. Really, I can’t say enough about the benefits of going to a children’s hospital if you have that option available to you.
On Sundays, the hospital is pretty much deserted on the public levels. We were the only ones in the waiting room in the radiology department, so we got checked in right away. Being the only ones there, we also had sole control over the television, and Hannah picked out a recent movie to watch – Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. Not a big surprise considering how dog-crazy this little girl is. 😉
After a bit, we got called back. Hannah changed into loose clothes just like the ones she’d worn a few weeks earlier for her surgery at this same hospital. The technician walked us to the MRI room, and showed all of us exactly what it looked like. Ron and I had to stay outside since the magnet is turned on at all times and we were in normal street clothes with metal parts, but we were able to watch from the doorway as Hannah was settled in. One cool thing about having an MRI here is that they have video goggles that the kids can wear with headphones, so they can watch a movie during the actual MRI itself. Hannah chose the same movie she’d been watching in the waiting room, and Ron and I headed back out there during the 45-minute wait until she was done.
Of course, Hannah got another blue slushy afterward and we headed home with our happily blue-tongued child.
We had to be back at the hospital early the next morning, so sent Becca over to a neighbor’s house to wait there until the bus came (Abbi rides an earlier bus) and headed back downtown yet again. Hannah was scheduled for a contrast dye injection (for the bone scan) at 8am. We also brought with us the contrast dye fluid that she was supposed to drink before the CT scan since she needed to drink 12 ounces at 8am and then another 12 ounces at 9am before the CT scan at 10am. Then she’d have the bone scan at noon.
Being a Monday morning, the hospital was a lot busier this time and the waiting room in radiology was full. Hannah chose not to watch the movie playing, but instead buried herself inside a book she’d brought since we knew we’d have down time throughout the day. We were brought back after a little while by one of the hospital’s Child Life Specialists, and she got us settled into a cubicle and explained how the day was going to proceed. Since injections would be required for a couple of the scans, they were going to go ahead and simply put in an IV so that Hannah would only have to experience one poke instead of multiple ones.
As the nurse came in to do the IV, the Child Life Specialist came back and showed Hannah an iPad with photos of the different machines that would do her tests, plus gave her a couple of prizes – a book and a puzzle. The nurse was able to use a numbing spray in Hannah’s arm so that she wouldn’t even feel the IV poke, which was nice. They put in the IV and taped her arm to a board so she’d have to keep her arm straight. It was cool to see the little touches they used, like making sure that the tape wouldn’t stick to the hair on her arm.
After the IV was put in, the technicians from the nuclear medicine department came to do the injection for the bone scan. The injection was done right through the IV and the technicians were friendly and great with Hannah. After that, we were done for a little while so decided to head up to the main floor to check out the hospital’s library.
The library is a great area if you need to kill some time at the hospital – not only does it have a ton of books for every age group, including adults, but there are plenty of games for kids of all ages and even computers they can play on. Hannah and Ron decided on a game of Scrabble, so I watched and knit while Hannah played one-handed and managed to tie her father (with a lot of his assistance – I stink at Scrabble). When it was time, we headed back downstairs for the CT scan.
This time Ron and I were able to be right in the room with Hannah. This scan didn’t take long at all, and once it was done, they were able to take out the IV since it wouldn’t be needed anymore. Hannah was thrilled to get the use of her right arm back. Since she’d had to fast all morning for the CT scan, we all went upstairs to get a bite to eat afterward – as another prize, we were given a gift certificate to the little café area that serves pastries, coffee and such. Hannah chose a donut and had some mint hot chocolate. I had a scone and regular hot chocolate and Ron got a donut and orange juice. After we ate, we went back into the library since we still had about an hour left to wait before the bone scan. This time Ron and Hannah played several different games to pass the time while I knitted. Several other parents and kids wandered through as well.
At noon, we made our last trip downstairs, this time for the bone scan. Again Ron and I were able to be right in there with Hannah, and again she was able to watch a movie – this time on a television screen off to the side. They didn’t have quite as current of choices so Hannah opted for Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. It was really interesting to watch this scan, because we could see a diagram of her skeleton on the monitors – not at the same quality as the actual scan itself (they use the monitors just to verify placement) but it was pretty cool to see her skull and bones on there.
After the bone scan was complete, Hannah was presented with yet another giant blue slushie – this time as much to keep her hydrated and wash the contrast dye out of her system as anything else, but she was of course, thrilled to turn her tongue bright blue again. 😉 We made one last stop in the cafeteria for some lunch and were finally able to head out. By this time it was about 1:30pm – I’d given Hannah the option to just miss the rest of the school day, but she was adamant that she needed to go so she wouldn’t miss library. Yes, she’s our little bookworm!
The next morning before the girls went off to the bus stop, I pointed out to Hannah that she’d actually have to go a day without a slushy. However would she survive?? LOL She simply stuck her (non-blue) tongue out at me. 😉
We didn’t have to wait long for the test results. Around lunchtime on Tuesday I got a call from the oncologist letting us know that both the CT and bone scans were completely clear. On the MRI they did see a little bit of ‘stranding’ below her knee, but she was confident that this was most likely due to tissue change from Hannah’s surgery. Her recommendation was that no treatment would be needed and that we’ll just repeat the MRI in 3 months and then the CT scan in 6 months. Just to be sure, she planned to present the test results at the next tumor board meeting on Friday morning – so that we’d get consensus from 10 oncologists instead of just one, as she put it. She said that if we didn’t hear from her on Friday, then we’d know that they all agreed with her recommendation.
This was a huge relief to Ron and I – and to Hannah when we told her after school that day. Abbi had also picked up on a lot of what had been going on so we were able to fill her in and give her the good news as well. The next few days were still a little nervous for me as we didn’t have a final recommendation yet, but Friday came and went with no call from the doctor, so we know that at this point anyway – there is no cause for concern. And no need for chemotherapy or radiation.
After the whole roller coaster of emotion we’ve been on for the past couple of months, it’s so good to finally know for sure that at this point in time, Hannah is cancer-free. We’ll watch her knee and repeat the scans as necessary – but I’m feeling so much better about everything and hopefully the next scans will continue to be clear as well.
We’ve gotten so much support from friends and family during all of this whole process, which is so greatly appreciated. It’s good to put the stressful weeks behind us and be able to concentrate on just regular stuff like school conferences and attending birthday parties. And looking forward to the sunshine and warm days that are just around the corner with spring. 🙂