THE WRITE PLACE…

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2 Important Ways To Help Friends Or Family In Medical Crisis

Grani & the little grands taking a break after jumping on the trampoline with a sprinkler under it. My clothes are soaked! A hard day--Tiven's service, and we all needed the comfort of our crazy family. Cora, Cameron, Nola

Grani & the little grands taking a break after jumping on the trampoline with a sprinkler under it. My clothes are soaked! A hard day–Tiven’s service, and we all needed the comfort of our crazy family. Cora, Cameron, Nola

Do you have friends or family in a medical (or other) crisis? Who doesn’t, huh? How are you handling that? In my small circle we have dealt with some big ones over the last 4 years. I never did get my cape or badge or certificate, but I still feel I have enough real life experience and research to back my insights about these heart-breaking situations.

The biggest impact on giving comfort can be in what you do or don’t say. Skip the ubiquitous cliches and resist sharing your own similar, (but actually, completely different) experience. No one is in a hurry, so take your time and give some thought to each word that comes out of your well-intentioned loving mouth. Make it about them, (the victim or the caregiver) not you. “This must be so hard for you.” “I’m so sorry.” “I wish you weren’t going through this.” Like that, you get the idea; short, sympathetic and focused on them. And, no %^&* cliches! None.

The second biggest impact on offering comfort is not to make an ambiguous offer to help. Again, think first, before you even come into contact. Instead of asking your crisis-foggy-brained friend or family member what you can do for them, ask yourself what you would need. If you were in the same situation, what would you need? Then make a list of practical, helpful things that you are certain you can commit to.

List maybe 5-8 things. Like, “I have Tuesdays off,  I can make a meal for your family and do some laundry for you.” “I can come over this weekend and mow the lawn.” Or clean the house, help you make a calendar of things to do, run errands on a specific day, or any day, if you are available. Do they have a patient care page set up online to keep family and friends in the loop without a lot of phone calls? Whatever will be the most helpful for their situation. Write your final five to eight offers and hand it to the caregiver or the patient. Make sure that all your contact info is included, even if they are your best friend, and you talked on the phone every day before the crisis. Foggy brains.

If you are not up to a big time or energy commitment, but would like to do something, offer to read to them. Or to sit with them for 1/2 an hour while their caregiver takes a break. Can you stop by and get their mail for them? Bring them a treat? How about be their secretary for an hour? Maybe a mini spa treatment; braid hair, rub feet, paint nails…you know them, what would they love?

Careful consideration of these two things can have the biggest impact on the care and comfort that you can offer a friend or family member during a crisis. I’ve read hundreds of books and articles on the topic, and the same two issues come up over and over again. We tend to say the wrong thing or we don’t offer specific, practical help. If nothing else, find 100 ways to say that you are sorry, and skip offering to help until you know what to offer.

I hope this helps you and yours, I wish none of us needed to know or use this information.

Patti

Feel free to add your suggestions, questions or comments. What did I miss?


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Souvenirs from My Heart; Postcards-One

CASPIAN TERNS & A LOST SEAGULL Ready-Set-Take Off!!

CASPIAN TERNS & A LOST SEAGULL
Ready-Set-Take Off!!

First, please go see my “gutsy story” at http://www.gutsyliving.com  You can make a comment at the very bottom of the page.

The post title conveys that this is part 1 of a serialized version from a portion of my memoir-in-progress. It varies slightly from the actual book, in that it is not a book, but a blog post. Smile. My intention is to keep my writing focused on the memoir project, including blog posts here on The Write Place. If I bore the socks off you, then my new intention will be to move to a deserted island and never write again. Either that, or rewrite the damn thing, I mean, the host object of all my worldly dreams.  So, on with it!

This post could be about you or someone you love.

The contents of this post don’t come with citations, statistics, links, or expert opinions. You get souvenir postcards, instead.

The words within come from my heart; these are not happy souvenirs from my heart, but practical souvenirs, with bits of humor to buffer the fear, pain and sadness. (Plus Paul and I really loved to laugh)

These souvenirs were collected along our travels through many hospital stays. My late husband, Paul, and I gathered ways to help others who would be fighting for their lives, like we were fighting for his at the time.

We wiled away many hours in the hospital and temporary housing, talking about the physical clues we may have missed. I made a few notes about what we could put in a book for people in our situation. Paul’s first suggestion about our future book was to include his health information, from a few years before, right up to the day he was diagnosed with cancer.

That part was easy; I had already dug through doctor bills, lab reports and even our family wall calendar. My mission had been to make a document, specific to Paul’s health, for the millions of times doctors, nurses, administrators and others asked about Paul’s medical history.

I’m giving you the nitty-gritty truth here; even if you hand them a copy of the medical history, they will still want to hear it from the patient. In our case, Paul had made me his unofficial health advocate right after we became a couple, so he would defer their questions to me. I just read the answers from our copy of the document, or used it as a reminder of dates, lab values and other details. It did take months for me to think of making the document, but it sure saved our brain power once I had it completed.

Postcard 1: Make a written health history for yourself and family members, BEFORE it is needed, like now. Okay, maybe wait until you finish reading this post.

To be continued…

See, I told you it would be short, but that also means I had to cut it off sometime.

Watch for Souvenirs from My Heart; Postcards-Two with another beautiful picture that has nothing to do with the post.

As usual, I am happy to read your comments, questions, and critiques. However, mind reading isn’t my forte, so you’ll have to actually click on the button and write me a note. I’m so happy if you “like” this post, but why do you like it?

If you can’t “comment” or “like” because of technical difficulties, send me an email at 1writeplacewordpress at symbol gmail dot com. Weird, but that is so spammies can’t glom onto me. Please use the blog post title in the subject line.

Thanks ever so much,

Patti


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Memoir; Packing and Unpacking for Life in the Fast Lane

Many of my F/F may remember this post from that year in and out of hospitals. I caught it while working on the memoir and thought it was a good one to show what our lives were like.  I cleaned it up a bit and will find a spot for it in The Patient Patient Advocate.

Posted on Care Pages Dec 10, 2008 about our Thanksgiving scare.

Three hospitals, three temporary apartments, and numerous quick trips home in 5 months…

First, you pack to go to your “real” home to spend a cozy, quiet Thanksgiving. Finally allowed a few days away from the big city. Our own bed, woods, peace and quiet. You unpack and settle in. You delve into the secret gift room to see what goodies you can find among the gifts chosen over the year. The pool table becomes the gift table. So glad you bought for people when you saw good deals, or just the right thing for someone. Have to make this quick; don’t know how long you will have at home, or if you will get back before Christmas.

Fever takes hold.

You quickly re-pack to rush to the hospital; holiday traffic, 90 miles away. You forget all the things that you were going to bring back to the temporary home. You abandon the holiday meal, the fridge full of food.

First, you think, maybe a few days at the hospital. When you find out different, you make a run to the temporary apartment to do laundry, get some clothes, clean out the fridge there, and pack for an extended stay at the hospital. Bills to pay, notes and Christmas cards, appointments to cancel, appointments to make. Who can you call to clean out the fridge at home and take all the food?

At the same time, every minute, you worry about sepsis, this infection of unknown origin. He goes through 3 different antibiotics before they can get it under control. Make more notes in the medical journal.

You read, you knit, unravel mistakes, knit and repeat. It would be nice to unravel this cancer, to unravel a lifetime of regrets and mistakes. To knit over and around the anger, fear and deep sadness.

You have lugged enough stuff from the apartment, to the 7th floor, to try and make his stay here as good and comfortable as possible. Never enough.

Then, you re-pack; his body has performed more miracles, gave the doctors the numbers they needed in order to release him back to the temporary home. You lug it all back down to the hospital garage, load it up—barely room for him.

You stop at the store to pick over the shelves, the deli, to find tantalizing bits of food to entice him to eat. There are the 20 pounds he left behind, after 11 days at the hospital–about as much he has lost in the last 5 months! Time to pack on the pounds; fatten him up for transplant in 29 days. Stay away from people, cringe at the  stray cough or sneeze from workers and other shoppers. You want a force field so you don’t carry these germs back to him.

You shove the grocery bags in between the hospital luggage. Have to get  him “home” and tucked in as soon as possible. Haul groceries and hospital luggage  up the long sagging set of stairs, through the gate, then 5 sturdy steps to the porch, which damn key is it and  back to the temporary home! Safe, at last.

He feels guilty and says he thinks he can make another trip to the truck. You tell him to sit. You can do it. He sits. In his mind, you are sitting; he is hauling up the groceries and luggage, then parking the truck on the street and walking up the alley to the sagging stairs and the last five to the porch.

Unpacking is on a sporadic, as needed basis, for maybe a day or two. Where are those slippers? those pills? the phone number for the social worker? the addresses for the thank-you notes? the paper with our clinic appointment on it?—you know it’s in here somewhere??? He has his heated blanket, his favorite pillows, his snacks, thermometer, his water and his TV remote—ahhhh, he’s settled for the evening.

As you put it all away, you are reminded of your first pregnancy…always ready to go to the hospital at a moment’s notice. You don’t want to think about another emergency trip to the hospital, but, just in case, you start packing again…

Thank you for stopping by–I’m heading for the beach,

Patti