This song (the theme from Cheers) pops into my head every time I enter the children's hospital. I have lost count of the number of days that Ella Grace has been hospitalized, but I do know that we've never gone longer than three months at home continuously so my best guess is that it ranges somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of her life.
At first it's awful. After you give birth, the hospital wants to get you out of there as quickly as possible but keep your four-day-old, barely-five-pound infant for an indefinite amount of time. I will never forget that night leaving the hospital for the first time after I was discharged to drive 20 miles home while Ella Grace stayed in the NICU. It was heartwrenching. But over time, leaving Ella at the hospital gradually became a normal part of our abnormal life.
We are lucky to have access to such great care where we live for which I am very grateful and our proximity to the children's hospital is very good - I know of families that have to drive hours to get their child to an appropriate care facility. And once you become a regular (or "repeat offender") at the hospital, you start getting known by the people who work there so when you go, it becomes a homecoming of sorts. You begin to know basically all of the nurses and doctors and they are glad to see you (not glad you have to be there, but glad to see you) so it's kind of like we're just visiting old friends.
There is the usual cast of characters at the hospital including our doctors, nurses, and therapists, but some of my favorites are the "extras" like "The French Fry Guy" who I repeatedly see in the cafeteria loading up an entire styrofoam container full of french fries every single time. I must admit I am a bit jealous of his devil-may-care attitude when it comes to indulging on that greasy golden goodness since I myself feel like diving into an entire pool of fries at times. And there really is no concept of calories during a hospital stay anyhow. "Treats" are a hallmark of any stay, and the amount and nutritional value of those treats directly coincide with the length and severity of the stay.
The wonderful ladies from the FOCUS (Families of Children Under Stress) group always stop by with chocolate and other goodies without fail. Boy do I love those gals. The longer you stay, the more chocolate they bring you. They get it.
Then there is the lady at the front desk who always gives me a smile and makes friendly conversation as if she's known me for decades even though we've never had a 'real' conversation. Turns out that lady is actually a twin and they both work at that desk at different times. I only realized there were two of them when I saw them together in the cafeteria one day. That really freaked me out. I cannot tell them apart for the life of me but still think "she" is really nice.
There are also the security guards, the sweet old ladies in the gift shop, the child life volunteers, and the chaplains who always come by to say hello.
Coming by to see Ella while she is in the hospital is a must for many people who have met and/or cared for her in the past when they get word she is there. Because Ella has a trach and is on C-PAP at night through a ventilator, she must stay in ICU. We've been in all the ICU's (pronounced Ick-U's)...NICU, PICU, TICU, so she is pretty well-known in the ICU community. During any given hospitalization a random someone will inevitably pop in to say, "I heard Ella was here!" and demand to see what she is wearing.
Since the very beginning my mom (Nana) and I have made dressing Ella in adorable outfits with matching bows in her hair an Olympic event, and she has become notorious for her fashionable-ness. (Plus she is pretty darn cute!) So she has definitely earned the title of "Best Dressed Baby in the ICU" and that is why I felt it was appropriate to be the title of my blog.
Dressing Ella is one of the few things we can find joy in during a hospital stay (aside from the chocolate) and at this point, frankly, we have a reputation to uphold! Just last week while Ella was in for a trach infection I was nearly scolded for not having gotten a 4th of July outfit for her yet when asked what she would be wearing for the big holiday.
In her off-time, when she is home, Ella still looks just as cute every day with a giant matching bow in her hair. So we'll just enjoy dressing her up for our own entertainment here at home for the next 1 to 89 days until our next hospital debut.