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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Helping someone who has a child in the hospital

(Shutterstock image)

It's VERY difficult having a child in the hospital. I should know - my two youngest kids were hospitalized 14 separate times (two of those were in ICU.) All three of my kids have asthma, and they would end up in the hospital with pneumonia, RSV, or from breathing smoke from a forest fire.

It can really rip your world apart. 

Everyone's life is going on, and you are in the hospital with a VERY sick kid. It's stressful and scary! Sometimes you look out the window and are jealous of the other people driving down the road without a care in the world. Did I mention how scary it can be?

And you are sitting next to a very sick child. Hooked up to oxygen, an IV, and sometimes a heart monitor too.You hear the beeping of the machines, have endless visits from nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and nurse's assistants. You can set your watch by the respiratory therapist coming in to give your child a breathing treatment every 4 hours (around the clock.)  If they were really bad, it would be every 2 hours.

You can't sleep with all of the medical personnel dropping by the room, the endless beeping of the machines, and the stress of the situation. 

Then you have other kids at home. So you worry about that - who is taking care of them? In our case, Hubby and I would take turns at the hospital, never leaving our child's side. The other parent would go home to shower and change and spend time with the other kids.

Friends and family would ask how they would help. Tell them! Don't be shy.

Ask for someone to drive your carpool shift for school aged kids. Have someone take your garbage can out to the curb. Let your friends come help with laundry.  Let people shovel snow/rake leaves/mow your lawn (depending on the season.)

Have someone help with the other kids. They are scared too. It's the perfect time for friends and family to spoil them with mini golf, going to the movies, going out to eat, riding bikes, skiing, etc. Doing something - anything - to help ease their stress. 

If you have a friend who has a child in the hospital, drop off a goodie bag for her. When someone would drop off a goodie bag for me, it gave me a tiny moment of joy. Knowing that I have friends that cared enough for me to drive to the store and load up on mini bags of crackers, fruit snacks, candy and gum. (I never felt like eating, but would snack on crackers, cheese, fruit, etc.) One friend even brought a batch of fresh (and still warm) chocolate chip cookies because I was craving them. (And it's not an easy to drive to the hospital, go through security and come up to our hospital room.)

They would also add in Dr. Pepper and chocolate (chocolate makes everything better, right?!) and a few magazines to thumb through.

I have been lucky enough to have friends drop goodie bags off to me over the years. 

It's my turn now. 

I have a Wonderful Friend who has a daughter in the hospital. It's been a 
ROUGH 2 weeks for their family. My heart hurts for them. You have good and bad days in the hospital. Sometimes it's two steps forward and one step back. It can be really discouraging.

I felt that I needed to bring a goodie bag for her.  What joy I had in packing her favorite treats, caffeine,  magazines and hand sanitizer and driving up to the hospital.

It's amazing how healing a goodie bag and a good strong hug from a friend can be.



  1. I'm not a parent but I think it would be scarier for a parent than for the kid to be I. The hospital. I usually wasn't scared, I've been hospitalized multiple times for CF complications (or back then "digestive problems") I've thankfully never been in the ICU. I can testify to the power of visits though. When I was in the psych ward for severe depression, my family never visited but church groups with complete strangers would visit every week and I literally looked forward to it. There were much worse off people mentally while I was there and I still can't get the images of it out of my head, oh well it could be worse. Thanks for letting me post comments incessantly, writing is very therapeutic

    1. Hey, glad to hear things from your perspective. The hardest thing for me as a parent was not being able to "fix" what was wrong with my son or daughter when they were in the hospital.

      It's so hard to watch them that sick and knowing you just have to wait for the steroids and antibiotics to kick in.

      It's sad because some people don't know what to do - so they don't do anything. They don't visit the hospital, they don't drop off treats, they just go on with their life.

      The thing about all of the hospitalizations is that it has made me a much more compassionate person. Instead of saying, "let me know if you need anything", I pick something and do it!

      When I have a friend with a child in the hospital, I will drop off goodie bags, tape paper hearts to the windows of their house, tie ribbons around their tree. Drop off stuffed animals or coloring books.

      You KNOW what it feels like, so when it's your turn to help, you do it!

      Just like how you send pictures to the hospital for kids to brighten their rooms! :)

  2. Hi, my name is Grace. I doing an analysis paper, the thesis is that parents tent to give more affection and compassion to the child who is in the hospital than the child/ children who are in good health. I would like to know your opinion.
    I came up with this topic because I suffered with asthma throughout my childhood. When I was seven it almost ended my life. I remember having my mom by my side for majority of everything while my dad took care of my brother and sister.
    I would really appreciate your opinion, but if you don't want to I understand, your blog is still helpful to me.

  3. I know this is an old post and I'm always commenting; you must be sick of me!

    However, I love the idea of a goody bag. I too can testify to the power of visits. Last time I was in hospital was a couple of weeks ago after my first life-threatening asthma attack, and I was in a small room on the ward with three women in with me. The lady next to me was very elderly and very sick, on catheters and oxygen and transfusions and really, I think it might have largely been palliative. They didn't know what was wrong apart from maybe some sort of infection they were treating with antibiotics, but she was very ill and it seemed that she would be better and then crash into worse. But without fail every visiting time she would be surrounded by 6 or 7 people who all talked and laughed with her. To see how much she perked up with really was something special :)

    I also saw an elderly couple in the lift one time I ventured off the ward to get a snack. The man was a joker and a tease and was messing around while the woman was tutting and smiling and telling him to put a sock in it! The love they both clearly had for each other was undeniable and beautiful and to have been together so long and still have that spark was really heartwarming!

    The nurses and HCAs were amazing, I have to say. It is scary when you are wheeled through to Resus and you literally cannot breathe but you still need to cough and your chest feels like it's on fire, and they've hooked you up to a heart monitor and your neb is on, the magnesium is dripping into your veins..but there is a sense of relief because at the point when you see the sign which says 'Resus' and you see the mist on the nebuliser and feel the cold of the IV, you just realise that you're in the right place. It might sound cheesy but honestly, at that moment I knew I would pull through.

    Kudos to my parents for pandering to my wishes and bringing me everything, be it PJs or cordial (to mix with the water) or colouring books and colours, or even my mini hockey stick so I could play bottle cap hockey in the long hours.

    One thing I will mention from my own experiences is that for me nighttime was the worst. In hospital, I don't know why, but I get depressed at night. I think it's the combination of the dimmed lights and the time to think and the tiredness which pulls you into a sense of loneliness. Every night it got worse, and I felt like yelling at the nurses that I just wanted to go home and I hadn't even wanted to be there in the first place (as if anyone had -- ugh), and at the same time I just wanted to give my parents the longest hug and tell them I love them and thank them for all they've done. It's weird, I know, but I don't think it's all that unusual, especially after a difficult experience like that. I would advise anyone who feels like that in the hospital to not worry about bothering people -- you won't -- and call one of the nurses or HCAs over when you see them. Certainly on the ward I was on, they would have been more than happy to take a few minutes to have a chat with me and put my mind at ease had I been proactive and let them know I was unhappy.

    Heads up, lung inflammation down ;)

    1. Yes, you understand all too well what it's like to be in the hospital over and over again.

      You learn a lot each time you are in there.

      You mentioned coloring - have you seen the new adult coloring books? I bought some from our local book store. They have all sorts of designs - mandalas, animals, art nouveau designs, etc. I bought a pack of colored pencils, and that's my creative outlet. I usually color while I let the TV play in the background (or you could just listen to an ipod.)

      I know what you mean about nights being hard. We always stayed at night with our kids (but they were young kids) It does get lonely and boring.

      Hope you feel better :)