Surviving a Clinic Appointment With a Child
Some of the most stressful times in my life have been when my toddler - in desperate need of a nap - accompanied me to a few hours long CF clinic appointment that inevitably did not go so well. (My heart rate is increasing even as I write this.) Those clinic appointments are always the ones in which I'm declining. Either my lung function was dropping or treatment wasn’t working, and to top it off I couldn’t secure a babysitter. I had no choice as a stay-at-home mom but to bring my rascally son to the hospital and hope for the best - both for my lung function and our sanity.
Clinic appointments with children
I’ll paint the picture for you: I blow a pathetically low FEV1 while trying to process the disappointment internally. Meanwhile, I am wrangling my active boy as he’s begged to get out of the stroller and my doctor is patiently trying to relay pertinent information such as IV antibiotic options as the treatment course. I am trying my hardest to focus on what she is saying as I hold my toddler on my hip (already a hard job with low lung function) and he throws the toy (or snacks or book) I just gave him on the CF clinic floor (gross!). It’s a lot. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. Usually, I would wait until we made it to the car to cry.
Clinic appointment anxiety
I swear, I still sweat thinking about those times because they were so very hard - both physically and mentally - to be stuck in two worlds. Clinic appointments are anxiety-inducing enough without having to worry that your child is occupied, safe, and well-behaved. I loved bringing my son because the clinic staff loved to see him, but it 100% made being focused on my care that much harder. Sometimes, your child has to come because they are the patient themselves.
CF clinic appointments don't always have to be a hot mess. There are some tips and tricks that helped us along the way survive a clinic appointment with a child.
Tips for child as a patient
Create a fun tradition
Create a fun CF clinic appointment tradition! As a child, my mom and I had a fun tradition of stopping by the cookie cart, gift shop, and the George Rhodes’ audio kinetic ball machine after each clinic visit. It was something to look forward to even if I wasn’t happy about going to the doctor.
Get them involved
Getting your child involved in the appointment is a sure way to make it go smoothly. Depending on their age, encourage them to help with vitals, answer the doctor's questions, or offer information about their health.
Talk about the schedule
I personally believe children do better when they are told what to expect. Try drawing out a schedule for little ones or writing a schedule for older children of what is to come at the appointment will help prepare them for the appointment. Ex. Weight and temperature check, PFT, see the Nurse Margaret, See Dr. M., etc.
Write a list of questions
Writing a list of questions or points to talk about is a helpful way to make sure you are communicating effectively during stress, without missing any important information. If all else fails, your doctor can go over the list after the appointment and answer through email or a phone call as well.
Use the exam table paper to your advantage
The exam table paper is the perfect place for play! Bring crayons, stickers, playdough, tiny cars, and let their imagination go wild. I’m sure the clinic staff will love seeing their creation afterward!
Tips for child as a support person
Use a stroller
For younger children, do not forget the stroller. Having a place where they are strapped into one spot is a necessity while the parent does the PFT or any other tests. Without the stroller, my son would have taken a solo adventure all over the hospital!
So many snacks
You can never overpack on snacks, ever. Pack a variety of snacks that your child is interested in and let them have their fill. Spill-proof snack cups were a lifesaver!
Go crazy with post-it notes
This one is a little outside the box but it is helpful! Give your child a pack of post-it notes and let them "decorate" the exam room. My toddler son loved putting post-it notes everywhere and they kept him occupied and quiet. Clean up was also a fun activity too!
Hail mary: hand over the iPad
I’m not typically the type of mom who throws an iPad in front of my child in public, but now I have no shame offering it at clinic appointments. I wish I would have been a little more gentle with myself when my son was younger and let him watch a show while we were at the doctor's. My health is more important than screen time!
I hope these tips and tricks make CF clinic appointments with a child all the easier. What tips and tricks do you have? Share in our forum!
Cystic fibrosis affects every aspect of life. Will you tell us about the realities of CF in our survey?