Monday, December 12, 2016
What We Read at the Hospital
She lunged from the play set and caught the third rung out. Another time she missed and landed on her feet. She went right back up to try again.
I turned back to Little Q, who likes to tease me by walking closer to the openings on the play set than he knows I like. It's a game. He holds the bars, leans back, and puts one foot out in the forbidden space off the play set. I clap-growl, and he backs off, laughing. He had all my attention when I heard a heavy sound behind me, followed by a faint whimper, and turned to see M crumpled up on the rubber bark. She had missed.
Cory and I were beside her in an instant, asking her again and again where it hurt, ready to help the moment we knew our touch wouldn't dislodge something broken. "My arms!" she finally articulated. "My arms hurt!" We helped her stand and walked her straight home (it wasn't far). She walked slowly, as if each step caused more pain. There was no question about it. She was going to the ER almost immediately. At the house I collected a change of clothes with wide sleeves, her purple fleece blanket, two picture books and my iPad.
Usually I have a rule: no one under the age of 12 is allowed to sit in a front seat when I'm driving. M has another year to go, but the front seats are heated, so I insisted she sit there. 52 degrees quickly turned from pleasantly adventurous to unpleasantly cold for her, and she was shivering. She whimpered when I accidentally brushed against her fingers, and I didn't dare slip her hands through coat sleeves, so we spread a blanket across her lap and turned on the heated seat for the drive.
In the waiting room she was shivering again and had rapid, shallow breathing. I hoped they would bring her a heated blanket soon. I pulled out the first book I had brought and began reading Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas. Once we finished that, I began reading Mad About Madeline* (a collection of all the Madeline picture books). I've found that rhyming couplets can be a soothing distraction to people in pain, similar to rocking back and forth and stroking their forehead. Madeline is completely written in rhyming couplets.
In the first story, our adventurous Madeline "sat in bed. Cried and cried. Her eyes were red." A doctor determines she has appendicitis and "in a car with a red light they drove out into the night." We are spared all the scary details of her surgery, but her 11 visiting friends are surprised to see a scar, along with toys and candy and a dollhouse from Papa. The final page begins with the soothing words "'Good night little girls. Thank the Lord you are well. And now go to sleep,' said Miss Clavel."
This isn't the only Madeline book with sickness and healing. In Madeline's Rescue, the adventurous little girl walks on the railing of a bridge and falls into the River Seine. "Dear Madeline would now be dead, but for a dog that kept its head." After warming Madeline up safe at home, the book focuses on the beautiful stray dog that rescued Madeline and comes to stay at their school.
Madeline and the Bad Hat is a story about the Spanish ambassador's lonely and mischievous son Pepito who lives next door. Thanks to a bad decision involving one cat and all the dogs in the neighborhood, Pepito is visited by the doctor and left in a four poster bed, covered in bandages. This isn't the end of the story, just a turning point. When we see Pepito next, he is well and whole again, and displaying his reformed behavior.
Reading picture books like that helps children realize that their terrible experience is just a page in their story and that they actually will get well soon and have happy things in the future.
By the time they moved her from her check-in room to the larger room they would set her bones in, we had completed the entire thick book, which had given her something nice to focus on, while she was trying to ignore the pain.
Choosing Books for a Child's Hospital Visit
1. Choose a book that your child would have enjoyed if they were a couple years younger. A young adult may prefer middle grade novels, and elementary kids may relax best with picture books.
2. Choose books with happy endings. Children's literature is famous for happy endings, but there are a few tearjerkers to watch out for.
3. Try books with a healing theme. Older children may enjoy The Secret Garden. The Madeline books are great for younger children.
To finish M's story: yes, she did break both arms. Yes, they are healing nicely and she won't need surgery (a specter raised at the ER, after three failed attempts to set and cast her right wrist).
Yes, she missed school for a week. Once the swelling went down and her fingertips were less sensitive, she regained a lot of her independence.
Yes, she will get better. Her cast is scheduled to be removed two days after Christmas. It will be okay.
*Note: Mad About Madeline seems to be out of print and replaced by the nearly identical A Madeline Treasury. Some reviewers note that there is a typographical error on page 300 of this edition (in Madeline's Christmas).