Saturday, April 22, 2006

If Your Friend's Child Goes in the Hospital ...

I have the best friends and they have taught me so much through all this, namely, how to be a friend to someone whose child is seriously ill. So, for others who may be in their situation, here's what you can do to help:

1) If you have a wide community of friends, establish one person as "point person." This will be the person who does the phone calling to the friend, disseminates the information, etc. One of my friends even created a yahoogroup devoted to Little Warrior so that everyone could write back and forth with updates, who was taking casseroles to the family, etc. Doing this not only helps with the parents not having to make 20 phone calls, but hopefully you can also run interference with the not-really-a-friend person who wants to go up to the hospital, or call the parents with her story of her cousin's child who died from something similar, or whatnot.

2) Find out what's being done on the homefront, if there are other kids. Both parents of the sick child want to be at the hospital. If a family member hasn't taken up residence, figure out coverage. Even if there is someone there, take food. Ask everyone for casseroles and such. If the kids go to school, make up a bunch of sandwiches and snacks and bag them up. For non-parent caregivers, getting the kids ready in the morning was a big chore. Take over some easy breakfast stuff, like french toast, that just needs to be heated up.

3) Take them clothes. Doesn't have to be their clothes. My friends brought up some comfy pajamas, tshirts and flannel shirts of their own. There was something really comforting about wearing their clothing. No matter how hot it is outside, take a sweatshirt or jacket. Hospitals are freezing.

4) Take toiletries. Shampoo, soap, razor, toothbrush and toothpaste. If she has long hair, a ponytail holder. If she has short hair, some barrettes. If it's a guy, a baseball cap.

5) Take snacks. You know your friends, so you'll know what they like, but I would point you towards "easily digestible." Those first couple of days, we were so stressed out, didn't want to eat, but had to. My brother brought me a Kashi bar. Normally, a good nutritious snack. But, erg. Grab something like animal crackers.

6) Take stupid magazines. Nothing smart. Really really light things like "People" and maybe even the horrible "Reader's Digest." Those first couple of weeks, as we were going through tests and diagnoses, I tried to read a Newsweek, which is still pretty easy reading. I mean, it's not The Atlantic, let alone The New Yorker. I would read the same sentence over and over again, with it not making sense. Basically, look for something with lots of pictures.

After the initial "freak out" couple of days/if the hospital stay was planned in advance:

1) Gift cards for area restaurants -- especially if they deliver. Gift cards for the cafeteria or snack bar in the the hospital, if they give them. If not, an envelope full of $5 bills.

2) If there's a microwave on the floor that they can use, this opens up a lot of possibilities. Some of those microwave Betty Crocker desserts where all you add is water. Microwave soup or some of those meals that don't need refrigeration.

3) More magazines.

4) YOU. With food. This was the most wonderful thing. My friends would go to a restaurant, pick up food for all of us, and come over. Party in pediatric oncology room 9! If they're in ICU or PCU, you can just hang out together in the waiting room. It will be much appreciated.

My husband and I never felt alone in all this. 'Cuz we've got the best friends in the world.


Anne said...

That was so good..I hope people read that and take it to heart. I know a lot of people dont know what to do so they do nothing. Those small things are so appreciated.

Lizzi Burgess said...

I know it's different, but referring to your food comment…when my auntie's cancer came back in June we were told she had a few weeks left, so my parents arranged for us to take the 5-hour journey the next day. I wasn't hungry, really, but we ate at the hospital near us, because my mum had to have a CT scan.
So many things that would have been so nice on any other day - sandwiches, wraps, cheese and onion pie - just made me feel sick. I found all I was hungry for was cheesy tomatoey pasta, curly fries and seed mix.
When someone's really ill, no-one cares how unhealthy the food is. So long as you're eating, that's good.