Hi there fellow heart Mumma! How you feeling today? Hope you've taken some time for yourself, in this crazy time we live in!
In this blog I have compiled all my tips, suggestions and knowledge from Alfie's two open heart surgeries.
For a little bit of background, I'm Sharne, Heart Mumma to Alfie. Alfie was born in June 2021,and diagnosed with a pulmonary atresia, VSD, and MAPCAS.
He had his first open heart surgery when he was 4 weeks old, and then just recently had his second at 8 months old.
We live in Adelaide, which unfortunately does not offer heart surgery. So we were sent to Melbourne at the RCH for both his surgeries.
TIPS FOR TRAVEL
- If possible ask for a free seat in your row (for more space with a baby)
- Bring chocolates to give to the surrounding passengers to 'appease' them if your baby cries
- You can take up to x3 free baby items (pram, car seat, cot)
- Use a baby carrier in the airport for easy transfer and gives you spare hands to help carry bags etc.
- Take panadol on the flight (or give half an hour before) in case their ears hurt
- Take a feed/ be prepared to breastfeed on the flight (wear easy BF clothes as there isn't much room)
- Take one or two small toys for them to play with
- There are nappy changing facilities on the plane, however if its a short flight just change before boarding
The Women's and Children's hospital will organise and pay for your flights, and taxi's to and from the airport. Make sure you ask them to include a rear facing car seat in the cab. They will give you a cab charge ticket to give the driver when you get there, so make sure you have it in your purse so it's easy to access.
TOP PACKING TIPS
I actually have a blog about packing for a hospital stay already, but I will summarise my favourite things here.
- 'Stud' or double zip suits for easy access and wires to be able to feed through in hospital
- Socks (their little feet get so cold in hospital)
- Wraps & one warm blanket (they do have some there, but its much nicer using your own)
- Your babes bib, bowl and spoon (and potentially their own food if you think they won't like the hospital food) We took some rafferty garden puree's for Alfie and he ate those when he started having solids again.
- A comforter (favourite teddy) and some toys
- A book or two to read post surgery
- A laptop or tablet for yourself to watching things on when you're bored in the hospital room :) I also had crochet
- Slippers (for you.... if you're staying overnight in koala these are a luxury)
- Pram - we did not take ours as I didn't think we would need it, however Alfie stayed with us quite a lot post surgery before we were allowed to go home, and it would have been really nice having a pram. I would bring one if we had to go back next time. However a carrier will suffice.
- My Scar Buddy - Alfie loved his, kept him calm and happy during all his procedures :) You can find them here
- Take a cuddly toy like a jelly cat, or a snuggly for when they are intubated (on the ventilator) this helps hold it in the right place and also helps prevent bubs from pulling the cords.
- Most importantly.... the best hot chocolate you will find is at Aruba café (next to McDonalds)
- The best coffee, according to a fellow heart mumma is at the Sandrock cafe :)
- There are about 5 different cafe's, McDonalds, two Asian places, boost juice, and a restaurant for food options.
- There is a supermarket (Royale Supermarket) inside the hospital which is super handy for essentials etc.
- There are a couple nice gift shops, and also the pharmacy has the most beautiful baby clothing :)
- You are required to check in and get a sticker with your name on it before you can enter the wards/appointments
- There are meerkats to see on the ground level in A3 (Next to the cardiology rooms, where you go for pre and post op checkups)
- The parks around the hospital are lovely for short or long walks (would recommend trying to get out in the fresh air at least once a day!)
- There is a family laundry that you can use, ask the ward clerk on Koala for some washing powder.
- The hospital provides formula and nappies (there is a milk room where they can store and freeze all your milk. And if you are interstate there is no limits on how much they can store :))
- If you are driving and parking underneath you can get a $10 parking ticket from security for each day instead of paying the full amount (only once your child has been an inpatient for 48 hours)
- Each ward has a parent kitchen with toast, jams, coffee and tea (I brought my own hot chocolate) With all the kitchen facilities you need.
- There is a Hoyt's cinema on the ground floor, however it has been closed due to covid, but worth checking out just in case
- There is a family hub, that you can attend if you want some privacy and also a prayer room
- There are several childcare/babysitting services at the hospital
- There is a gym available
- Make sure you visit the restaurant called "Farmacy" its such a beautiful place, and its right at the front of the hospital!
- The first time round we stayed in an Airbnb in the Royal Park Towers on Flemington road (walking distance to the hospital) This was convenient and comfortable. Not somewhere I would choose to go for a holiday, but it worked for us. It also had a kitchen and two bedrooms which was helpful.\
- We also stayed in the Larwill Studio for a couple of nights. It's lovely in there, however there is no kitchen and its comparatively expensive.
- This time we stayed in apartments on chapman. The great thing about this is that they accept the government PATS forms so you won't be out of pocket.
- These apartments for the most part were clean and tidy. We had a family room. There is a washing machine and dryer in the bathroom. There are kitchen facilities but no dishwasher.
- FYI if you are pregnant or a larger build you might struggle getting into the shower, if I was pregnant I would not have fit I don't think.
- There is a short walk through an alley to get straight to Flemington road directly across from the hospital (literally a 3 minute walk)
- There is a Woolworths only a 10 minute walk from the hospital
- Errol street is the main street in North Melbourne, and has the most beautiful shops and cafes
- Recommended places to eat: Auction Rooms, Mork (amazing chocolate) and No.9Pizzeria.
- Also... uber eats is AMAZING! So many delicious options!
- Make sure you go for a walk around the parklands behind the hospital, they are beautiful
- Checkout the nature playground next to the hospital!
I hope this is helpful and not overwhelming. Obviously there is a lot involved with having a child in hospital, especially if you are in a different state to home, and there are visitor restrictions.
There are hundreds of parents going through this very same thing every day, so know that you are not alone, even though it feels like it.
I cannot stress enough the importance of looking after yourself, I promise you it will help you feel soooo much better in the long run. It also means you'll be able to be there 100% for your family when they need you.
I could talk forever about this, so if you have any questions my DM's are always open, and I truly mean that, I can be a listening ear, or hopefully help you out in some way :)
Much love to you and your family, and especially your heart kid. I really hope the surgery goes ok for you all.