After ICU, the high dependency unit is one of the busiest places in the hospital.
Monitors constantly sing out their soft beeps, keeping an eye on heart rates, oxygen levels, breathing rates… pumps managing feeds, IV fluids, TPN, infusions alarming every so often as a child moves, causing a kink in a tube.
Or fidgeting in their sleep, the SATs probe attached to a finger or toe momentarily losing connection.
I’m sitting in the corner of our room, under the only light now still on – my precious boy sleeping softly in the bed next to me.
I can’t get any closer to him, there’s too many drip stands and trolleys holding equipment… the syringe driver used to deliver a phosphate infusion extremely slowly to prevent catastrophic rebound effects, the BiPAP machine that has helped him breathe for the past two weeks we’ve been here.
Another drip stand holds his IV fluids bag, TPN bag and a bottle of his usual formula feed, slowly dripping into an NJ tube; while we get him back on normal feeds it’s the TPN that is providing him with the nutrients he needs, but the solution is irritating to the vein so a normal cannula in a hand won’t last very long.
To negate this, he has a long line inserted into his little arm with the tube passed up through the vein to the point where it opens into a larger one, meaning less of an issue with irritation.
Just under three weeks ago we almost lost him.
I was by his side when his lung collapsed and he went into respiratory failure.
As I went into autopilot and jumped out of the way, the staff on the HDU saved his life.
As I stood frozen to the spot praying he wouldn’t leave me, that I wasn’t ready, those incredible people stabilised his vital signs and got him on the ventilation support he needed within minutes.
Even while they were working on my boy, they were asking if I was ok.
The love and care they have shown my son and us as his parents has been second to none.
That night, despite covid-19 restrictions, they allowed us both to be with our boy.
They sat and cried with me, explained each procedure, made us laugh and have cared for our child as if he were their own.
But still, there is a deep loneliness here that only other HDU or ICU parents will understand.
It’s the pain of being separated from our partners, other children (furry, in our case), and the fear that our children may not improve.
The feeling of helplessness is crippling.
While I love the staff here dearly, I cannot for us to be together once more as a family… because that is where our strength comes from.
For now, I will sit and watch over my sleeping child, with the monitors for company, until he is well enough to come home.