Preparing for preschool with a heart child

Last week saw a big milestone for Jessica as she started preschool for the first time. She took it all in her stride and seems to be thoroughly enjoying it so far. However, it was a big step for me as a parent too. Going from having her home all the time to letting her take her first independent steps into the world and having to trust other people to keep a watchful eye on her and her heart condition was a daunting prospect.

 

Preparing for her to start preschool was quite an involved process. It involved a lot of form-filling and conversations between the cardiac nurses, myself and the preschool staff to ensure that everyone was well-informed about Jessica’s heart condition and how best to support her. Here are some of the key steps and things we learned about preparing for preschool with a heart child.

 

Jessica in her preschool uniform - "Preparing for preschool with a heart child"

1. Finding a preschool we felt confident and comfortable with

A couple of the preschools we visited were very quick to tell me that they would definitely be fine with coping with Jessica’s heart condition without actually taking the time to find out anything about it. I am sure they meant to be reassuring but their blasé approach made me nervous. The preschool we chose took the time on our initial visit to ask for more details about Jessica’s heart condition and the things they needed to be aware of. This was much more reassuring.

 

Other factors in our decision were:

 

  • Location – being only a few minutes’ walk away means that Jessica should be able to walk there without getting too tired.
  • Flexibility with sessions – Jessica attends preschool two mornings a week. I have friends with children in preschool where their children have to go for the full 15 hours. This was not what I wanted for Jessica, at least not at first.
  • Outdoor space – Jessica can get cold very quickly (which makes her go quite blue). Having an outdoor space attached to the preschool gives her the option of being able to come back indoors easily if needed.

 

2. Filling in health forms and care plans

We filled in a lot of forms to ensure that we gave the preschool as much information as we could, including the following:

 

  • Name (and description) of Jessica’s heart condition and other medical conditions
  • Her medical history and brief details of her surgeries to date and next anticipated procedure
  • Details of her medications and side effects (e.g. she is on aspirin which means she bruises easily)
  • Symptoms associated with her heart condition – such as blueness, breathlessness and tiring more easily
  • Contact details for cardiologist, cardiac liaison nurses, paediatrician, community nurse and GP

 

Jessica also has a medical bracelet with brief details of her heart condition and a contact number to access a more detailed history if needed. There are various companies that can provide these. We got ours from the ID Band Company.

 

Jessica doing some sticking at the table

 

3. The reminder that we as parents are the experts where our particular child is concerned

There were a few phone conversations between the preschool, myself and the cardiac liaison nurses in the run-up to Jessica’s first day. The preschool initially wanted the cardiac liaison nurse to visit them to discuss Jessica’s day-to-day needs. However, there was very little information that the cardiac nurse could give that I had not already provided. The preschool also know that they can call me at any time if they have any queries or concerns about Jessica. Of course in an emergency situation they would call an ambulance first and me second though!

 

4. Increased exposure to childhood illnesses

I know that I cannot protect Jessica from being exposed to childhood illnesses, nor do I really try. However the increased exposure to bugs at preschool is something that does worry me a little. A chest infection or a bout of gastroenteritis have been known to land Jessica in hospital. Being on aspirin also puts her at risk of complications from things like chicken pox. The preschool have agreed to keep me updated if they know about any particular bugs going around just so I can keep a little bit of a closer eye on Jessica with regards to these.

 

I was quite anxious in the run-up to Jessica’s first day but thankfully she seemed to enjoy it. Her key worker seems lovely and has been very good at keeping me updated on how Jessica is getting on which is very reassuring.

 

I found the following information leaflets very helpful when preparing Jessica for preschool. If you have a heart child about to start nursery or preschool these are definitely worth a read.

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26 Comments

  1. January 15, 2015 / 10:21 am

    This is where I will be (all being well) a year from now. Up to now I’ve only left Martha Grace with her Dad or my Mam and occasionally my maternal grandparents; leaving her with non-family members is a thought that petrifies me.
    I am definitely going to get her an ID band like Jessica’s too xxx

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:13 pm

      It was definitely something that worried me – I’d never left Jessica with non-family members either but the preschool have been so good at asking questions and making sure they have as much information as possible that it really did help set my mind at ease. Jessica is really good with her ID band, she loves her bracelet and knows not to take it off x

  2. Beth Twinderelmo
    January 15, 2015 / 11:49 am

    You’re very organised and definitely want the best for Jessica – she’s lucky to have such awesome parents who are doing everything to make preschool as care and stress free as possible xx

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:11 pm

      Thank you – it has been quite an involved process but has made me more relaxed about it and Jessica is enjoying it.

  3. Mel
    January 15, 2015 / 1:33 pm

    It sounds like you really made a well-informed decision when choosing Jessica’s preschool. I would also have been worried about the lack of questions of some of the preschools. I get the same feeling when I ask about allergens in restaurants we’ve not been before.

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Thanks Mel – yes, I can imagine that it must be quite stressful asking about allergens in unknown restaurants – so many things to have to think about with our little ones, aren’t there?

  4. January 16, 2015 / 9:32 am

    There is so much to think about, that wouldn’t even occur to me, sounds like you have everything covered, which is great because it means you can relax while Jessica is off having fun =D

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:25 pm

      Thank you – yes, it has all helped make me feel more relaxed about the whole thing.

  5. January 16, 2015 / 10:18 am

    Bless you xxx what a week you’ve had! Jessica looks so cute though and I’m glad she’s enjoying it. It’ll take time to adjust but I hope you start to enjoy this time too xxx #TheList

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:26 pm

      Thank you – we’re both starting to settle into the change in routine now 🙂

  6. January 16, 2015 / 8:48 pm

    Sounds like there was so much to think about – and you covered it all. So pleased Jessica is settling in well and enjoying it and you feel comfortable with the nursery. It also sounds as though her medical team are really dedicated in offering advice and information and are very supportive of you both x

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:32 pm

      Thanks Yvette – it has really helped that the preschool have been so proactive and made sure they’re as well-informed as possible x

  7. January 16, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Adorable photo of her in her little uniform. It must be hard leaving her at nursery after everything she has been through but she sounds like such a tough little cookie. xx # TheList

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 10:33 pm

      Thank you – the first day was hard but it is lovely to see how much she is enjoying it, and yes she definitely is a tough little cookie.

  8. Amy
    January 16, 2015 / 11:42 pm

    Oh goodness little Jessica looks just adorable, bless her. This is such a tough decision with added worry for you, but sounds as though you have covered all bases. xx

    • Louise
      Author
      January 16, 2015 / 11:52 pm

      Thank you – it helped knowing that the preschool were so good at making sure they are well-informed x

  9. January 20, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    Followed you over here from #thetruthabout linkup. Congratulations and good luck with your little girl! I have a nut-allergic child, and while it’s not at all the same thing you’re dealing with, it’s stressful to think about sending her to school in a few years when I’m not there to make sure she’s okay. Not at all like with her 3 older siblings where I didn’t have a worry in the world about putting them on the school bus and waving goodbye…

    • Louise
      Author
      January 21, 2015 / 11:12 am

      Thank you – it does make things more worrying when they have health issues or allergies to worry about. Hopefully all will be well when your child starts school – I can imagine what a worry that must be for you.

  10. January 20, 2015 / 2:29 pm

    Louise, there are so many extra things that you have to take into consideration when preparing Jessica for preschool. It must be such a worry for you to let go and trust others to care for her appropriately, but simultaneously not smother her. Being nearby is a great thing for her (short walk) and you (can get there quickly). You strike me as being very confident and knowledgeable, far from nervous and neurotic, which I think the school will appreciate and Jessica will thrive from. It is also so useful that you’ve shared those links. Good luck with it – she’ll have a ball. xxx

    #TheTruthAbout

    • Louise
      Author
      January 21, 2015 / 11:13 am

      Thank you Fiona – letting go does come with extra worries but having a preschool that has been proactive about making sure they are as well informed as possible has really helped. I try not to be neurotic and overprotective (easier said than done at times!) It’s lovely to see how much she is enjoying being at preschool and she is really thriving x

  11. Jess Paterson
    January 20, 2015 / 4:28 pm

    This is a great informative post, shows how much there is to think about for you and Jessica. I’m glad her first day went well and I hope she is settling in well now. I’m sure she is with such lovely parents making sure everything is smooth in the process. She looks so cute in the photos! #thetruthabout

    • Louise
      Author
      January 21, 2015 / 11:31 am

      Thank you – it was quite an involved process but so glad she is enjoying it and I feel much happier knowing that the preschool are as well informed as possible.

  12. January 20, 2015 / 8:50 pm

    What a big step for you all, but i’m sure very exciting for Jessica. Do you follow Emma @TheCheshireWife, you have something in common, her little son has had heart ops and she herself has had many too.
    #thetruthabout

    • Louise
      Author
      January 21, 2015 / 2:48 pm

      Thank you – Jessica is really enjoying it. I wasn’t following Emma but I am now and will look forward to checking out her blog- thank you.

  13. January 20, 2015 / 9:40 pm

    Once again a really informative post Louisa and I can really see how you would be as much of an expert on heart children and their needs as any professional (if not more!). I hope Jessica continues to enjoy her time at pre-school. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout Xx

    • Louise
      Author
      January 21, 2015 / 2:49 pm

      Thanks Sam – lovely to link up again 🙂