When Cameron was in ICU, fifteen years ago, one of the families biggest stresses was parking. Finding a parking space and then paying for parking was a daily issue. As the day wore on they would suddenly realize that their parking was about to, or had, expired and they would have to sprint through the hospital, and down the road, hoping they hadn't been fined.
One day a social worker visited us to give us some vouchers to the hospital cafe, so we could get meals. She felt this was important and would relieve a certain level of stress but we stood there looking at her and said - thank you but the real stress is the parking. This appeared to be a little surprising to her.
After some discussion about the problem she disappeared and returned with parking vouchers for each of the family members so there would be no more mad dashes to avoid parking fines. Mind you, they still had to find a parking bay and each of them had their way of getting around the problem, whether it was the time they arrived or the where they tried for a parking bay first.
That was my introduction to parking at the children's hospital and fifteen years later it is still a nightmare to find a parking bay and return before your time is up. The problem is very simple, there are two small carparks and hundreds of people needing to park. Plus the traffic is one way so if you miss something you have to go around the block in heavy city traffic.
We have spent the last fifteen years visiting the hospital for all kinds of appointments - ENT, Audiology, Paediatrician, Epileptologist, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Pathology, MRI, Cat Scan, Radiology, Pharmacy, Medical Aides, Early Intervention, etc, etc, etc. Every appointment means finding a parking bay and on occasion, two or three times in the same day.
This is generally what happens. You leave home an hour before your appointment, even though the drive is only twenty minutes, if the traffic is good. You arrive at the first car park in plenty of time, and with a positive mind set, only to find a queue of cars parked down the length of the carpark and spilling out on to the road. You drive around all the cars and flow back into the traffic and on to the second car park. This time as you approach you see cars cruising around and some parked in the aisles waiting. You pull in hoping that someone will be sitting in a car, undetected by the other drivers, and pull out in front of you. You cruise around the carpark manoeuvring around the parked cars and pull back out on to the road.
As you head off to drive around several blocks to get back to the first carpark you notice that all the street parking is full. So you start all over again. You still have a positive attitude and you're asking the universe for some help PLEASE - time is running out. Again two carparks later you haven't found anything so around you go again. This time, with the swimming pool pass winking to you from the dashboard, you pull into the swimming pool carpark in the vain hope there is an empty bay - no luck. So out you go into the traffic again and back around to try the carparks again.
Now you are starting to panic. The appointment is in ten minutes and your feeling slightly stressed. The first carpark is still full so back to the second carpark you go and this time you park to wait for a bay. There is no point in driving around and around, you may as well wait. I have waited half an hour - but I got a parking bay.
Then you have to jump out of the car grabbing the child and everything else you need, race under the road, you've just driven across too many times, and tear into the hospital in a mad rush, blurting apologies for being so late. This last part is not so fast when you have a child who is too heavy to carry and too old for a pram so you have to walk - slowly.
When we went to hydrotherapy (water therapy) at the hospital we were given a pass to park in a tiny carpark next to the pool. That was wonderful if there was a bay available and if nobody else took the bays because their frustration levels had over taken their sense of right and wrong. Many a time I would pull in to find no empty bays and then have to negotiate my way back out whilst other cars were coming in behind me. Then it was back into the traffic and around to try and find a bay in the other carparks.
Cameron went to the hospital Day Care Centre for a few years and parking to get to the Day Care Centre was even crazier. There are only two bays for the whole Day Care Centre, so you can imagine what happens at the beginning and end of the day. Plus, if there is a news story and the media have turned up, they will take those bays. You have to cross six lanes of traffic to get across the road to the main carpark from the Day Care Centre carpark. Of course when the traffic is heavy you can't cross six lanes of traffic so you have to merge out and take the scenic route around the suburb until you can get back.
Over the years I have left home earlier and earlier to leave myself plenty of time to park. It is however ironic when you pull straight into a parking bay and then have to try and entertain Cameron for half an hour to an hour before his appointment.
There are ways of avoiding the carparking hassles and there are times when parking is absolutely no problem. If you want to avoid the carpark, arrive in an ambulance. We have tested this theory on many occasions and there is always a bay waiting for us right next to the door and we are inside in no time. But if you must take your own car then night time is the best time to find an empty parking bay. I am always the parent in the ambulance and Michael follows behind in the car. Between the hours of 6pm and 8am Michael has always found a bay waiting for him. It's just not there waiting for him when he arrives later in the day.
I always find the carparks quite sad to look down on at night. There are always cars in both carparks and you know that they belong to parents sitting in emergency or scattered through the hospital sitting by their children. The cars look lonely and abandoned which often reflects how I feel inside the hospital as the night wears on.