Don’t try to get anything accomplished during a shift change. If you’re not dying, wait until 8pm.

Wear practical shoes. You’ll be on your feet more than you think. But dress cute. You’re the representative for the family business. Doctors and nurses are your collaborators. Be someone with whom they want to work.

Drink water. Hospitals are very dry and it’s easy to forget the basic stuff.

Don’t feel like you have to answer every text or take every call. Your friends will give you a pass. And let people do stuff for you. Everyone sincerely wants to help.

Figure out who does what and ask the right person for the right thing. Nurses will empty bedpans but that’s really the purview of the CNAs. If you’re switching breathing apparatus, you want the respiratory therapist in the room.

Hospital rooms can get all dorm room in no time. Bring in photographs and drawings. Move the furniture so the flowers are in view. Tidy up. Organize.

Have great taste in people in the years leading up to your life-threatening illness, because then Salem Suber can come and stay round the clock while you try to keep your kid’s life semi-normal-ish while her father is attached to hoses and wires and patches and tubes.

Occasionally doctors can be brilliant but often nurses wise. Listen carefully. Everyone has a lot to offer.

Find a way to stay in touch with friends and family. Social media is pretty genius. Blogs are great. Mass emails work too. BUT make sure your family is hearing from you in a more personal way. They’re suffering deeply. Help them to feel closer.

The hospital is full of amazing resources. Physical therapists. Occupational therapist. Good old-fashioned therapists. Non-denominational chaplains. Pain specialists. Utilize them.

In lieu of flowers, ask for stories. Anecdote and yarn, gossip and obsession, rant and saga, every story inched him closer to life. But a couple of folks sent flowers anyway and, it turns out, flowers are pretty awesome too.

Before you walk in the door in the morning, smell the jasmine, admire the new magnolia blossom, notice the Western Bluebird by the parking meter. You need to bring in the hope and promise of life while someone is flirting with death.

For the love of God, make friends with someone in college who will one day be a brilliant infectious disease doctor. So, okay, I know it’s not possible for you ALL to know Caitlin Reed (which is a shame). Instead talk to your regular non-hospital doctor. Or a MD friend. You don’t want to undermine the hospital staff but you’re vulnerable. A version of Stockholm Syndrome can set in when you’re terrified. And even really smart, well-intentioned people make mistakes and miss things. You need to stay on top of it. Laurie Williams Gilmore suggests a notebook in which you write down everything that is said and every medication that is administered.

If your mom is helpful, ask her to come. Somehow moms can wedge their shoulder between you and the scary bits. At least a little bit.

Realize when you are asking the nurse to get a new medication from the on-call doctor at 3am, this will suck for him or her. There are politics in every hospital that are denser than the Canadian Boreal Forest. You have you have needs and they have a ticket of relationships. Ask for stuff but be thoughtful.

Bring in bagels for the nurses and doctors on your floor. It’s a way to express your gratitude and it doesn’t hurt the staff’s impression of you either.

Takes break when you can. Get out of the hospital. Take a walk. Avoid the hospital cafeteria. It’s not that the grub there is so terrible but there’s often really great food nearby. Doctors are foodies too.

Beware of polypharmacy. After Ian was less critically ill, he woke up to how truly bad he felt. His stomach was a mess. He had migraines. His body ached. And he still couldn’t breathe. Every specialist prescribed a different thing to help. Before long, he found himself in a Janis Joplin dissociative haze. When you can, keep it simple.

Take care of yourself. Try to sleep. Remember to eat. Take vitamins. Tell people how scared you are.

Finally, be a sorcerer. Conjure all the love that’s coming your way and bring that love with you. Touch his feet, rub his legs, kiss his forward, snuggle his shoulder. Remind him with your fingers there are more basketball games to play, songs to write, wacky scripts to dream up, and ridiculous projects to not-quite-finish. A hundred more recitals to sit through, seedlings to plant, and rooms full of friends with whom to crack wise. Dreary afternoons, glorious mornings and sexy gloamings.

Make a spell of love and never stop the incantation until he walks out that door, like a soldier returning from a private war, a ticker tape parade of friends and family cheering from the virtual sidelines and his daughter by his side.


Lucy insisted that Ian sleep with Squelch, her hapless quetzalcoatlus, with secret healing powers

Next up tomorrow… What the hell actually happened?

33 thoughts on “Hospitalandia

  1. Lars

    Did you know that the quetzalcoatlus that Ian built in Hillsdale is visible from space? Check out google maps! Not a bad claim to fame.
    Also, I have fond that good coffee is very hard to procure in a hospital. A stockpile of Starbucks Instant is worth it’s weight in pixie dust.
    It’s great to hear that Ian’s condition is getting better.

  2. Stephanie

    Dearest Tessa, I have stalked this blog ever since I learned of your husband’s condition via the book of face… I have sent a prayer every hour to this man I have not met but feel as though I know and love already, the man you love, the man that fathered the adorable and loveable girl with whom I lovingly share a service dog who was once a puppy behind bars… I know Santa Monica seems eons away from Studio City and this is why (I guess?) we’ve all never met in 3D… but these extensions of you, who I know from T & E, off and on for oh so many years now… They are extensions I care about, too. And I am so incredibly glad that things are on the up and up. And so in awe of your ability to produce such gorgeous writing all along the way, lighting up the darkness that has been very much a park of this journey. You are inspiring, you all are. You teach me words like “gloamings” and I actually looked it up. When you are all feeling better and the dust has settled, I want to come to the great beyond- the westside- with my darling angel boy, and we are going to make this happen. In 3D. I must hug Ian and Lucy in person. xo

  3. aigduke

    Tessa, I do not know you or Ian except through this blog, but please know my thoughts are with you and if it helps, I think you are handling this brilliantly, Know that there are many like me who are shouldering some of the scared and sending love from around the country.

  4. CM

    “BUT make sure your family is hearing from you in a more personal way. They’re suffering deeply. Help them to feel closer.”
    Only a really sweet person/couple would worry about relatives at a time when their own suffering is so enormous. You are great. Welcome back.

  5. Just Andrew

    Outstanding set of instructions. I particularly like
    “..dress cute. You’re the representative for the family business. Doctors and nurses are your collaborators. Be someone with whom they want to work.”
    One of the biggest sources of stress in my wife’s job is providing quality care to a patient with difficult loved ones in the way. And when you are being the representative, you are actually more than that – you are the advocate for the person in the hospital bed.

  6. Caitlin

    It was my privilege to attend, in every sense of the word. I’ve never been so delighted to see someone recover as I was to see Ian get through this crisis.
    My hospital tip: BYOS. Bring Your Own Socks. Those hospital socks with the little gripper chevrons on the soles are always going missing. I often have to resort to surreptitiously liberating them, on behalf of my patients, from storerooms on other wards. But they’re not as comfy or familiar as your own favorite socks.

  7. Salem

    I am so fortunate to have strong managers at Southminster, and a Mother who watched Lillie-Anne, understanding how much Ian means to us.
    I don’t know what all the fuss is about these Doctors. This progress coincides quite neatly with my auspicious arrival. :)
    I am in awe of Tessa’s ability to juggle the big ugly stuff, down to the most granular of details of this week. The farther we get from this scare the more you will hear about this weeks challenges, I’m sure. No Pentagon bunker, no war room of strategists shuffling troupes across a giant map, could ever prevail over Tessa and an iPhone. My note card is barely legible from trying to keep up. People pay big bucks for this kind of training.
    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I cannot wait to read Ian’s words about Tessa when this illness is behind us.
    A quick sidebar on Ian for the boys: let the Hi-larious “precious pants” diatribes roll in, but know this; like the password on the Apple TV we hacked into Ian’s hospital Television, he’s been “all balls”.

  8. LFMD

    So relieved that Ian is on the upswing, and so impressed with Tessa’s grace under intense pressure. Thank you so much for the continued updates. We love you!

  9. kate from the DTH front desk

    I second Salem’s comment… looking forward to Ian’s words about Tessa when this is behind you all. I don’t know how you’ve done everything you’ve done. Simply amazing.

  10. m.e.

    I share in all the awestruck praise of you and your amazing capacity to remain conscious, communicative, caring and creative during this unimaginable journey through the unknown. The love that you and Ian share uplifts us all and although dark fears taunt from the shadows, they have been no match for its radiance.
    Please know I am available for hospital shifts. I don’t want to intrude, being such a new friend, but I give good hospital and can bring food, hold hands, massage feet (his), shoulders (yours), whatever!
    Blessings and love,
    Mary Ellen

  11. Heather

    Don’t forget to engage your social worker!!! They can make miracles happen, especially with the administrative stuff.
    Send thank you notes or flowers to the floor when its all over—especially if you are a frequent customer like me. Or just for good health karma.
    Embrace how amazing and miraculous the human body is and remember how awesome it is to get up in the morning and run and breathe and pet the dog and pick up your kid.
    Learn that the human body really wants to be healthy. Thats why it goes crazy. Health is our true state.
    Be your own advocate. Listen and learn, but don’t except sub- standard care. Good clinicians go the extra mile.

  12. Annie

    The tears finally come, as though they belonged with the intense relief. And perhaps they do. It’s hard to even comprehend what has happened. And to think that I worried about Ian never finding a partner! Pssssshhhhht! ::: TESSA 2016 :::

  13. Cris

    It’s been such a powerful experience to be part of this enormous vigil in cyberspace, made up of incredible people (many of whom do not know each other at all) united in their love and concern for Ian, you, and Lucy. So relieved to hear he’s making progress towards recovery.

  14. jje

    Hooray! Happy to hear that our beloved Ian is on the road to recovery. And seriously, what a rockstar wife he has in you, Tessa!

  15. Julie

    I am soooooo glad and relieved to hear that Ian is on the recovery upswing. Still sending live and good thoughts for the next few days and weeks!!
    Other things I have learned. Wear warm clothes. And bring an extra blanket or two. I could be 100 degrees outside but the temperature seems to be set at a permanent 68 degrees. For someone who is dressed only in a hospital gown, it gets cold fast. And the smells from home can do a world of good.
    Bring good hand lotion. You wash or sanitize your hands so much more and fingers start to crack quickly.
    There is nothing wrong with asking a doctor about something you might have read on the Internet. It is all a matter of your tone. To be angry or confrontational will make the doctor feel like a lion backed into a corner. Not a good thing.
    Sharing a personal story or two with your nurses goes a long way. If (s)he has young kids that play sports like yours do, relay that yours does too and swap stories. Gardening is a hobby, share some of your failures and ask for tips. It goes a long way when you have that 3 am need.

  16. Jenny

    This is great to read. I am so relieved Ian is doing better. I’ve been glued to your blog. You are a divine writer. My love to all of you. Jenny

  17. Heather M

    Brillant post. Having spent a great deal of time in the Hospital with loved ones you have nailed so many valued points on the head.
    All the other helpful comments as well are fantastic.
    I have been thinking of your family and Ian everyday. I am glad to hear he is doing better – and I also hope once he is on his feet again you will visit the blog with posts more often!

  18. Neva

    Wonderful post. Such good advice and SO good to hear things are improving.
    My addition to this list is to not feel too intimidated to ask questions/assert yourself. Even I have had moments where I’ve thought “well they know what they are doing” even when I knew they were doing something concerning. Being in that vulnerable position makes you less likely to stand up for yourself or your loved one. If you see something concerning… don’t hesitate to say something!! There are so many errors in medicine and as the patient or patient’s advocate you can have a role to play in preventing them.
    Oh, and bring your own pillow…

  19. Jamie McPhail

    Reaching across from a lifetime ago to send you and Ian strength and love and prayers for a full recovery. I’m so happy that he is doing better.

  20. eric g.

    Ian, this is like one of those Carolina comebacks during the good old days when we’d get down by 20 and inch slowly back, a layup here, a three-pointer there and then suddenly a steal and a dunk and we’re back where we’re supposed to be. I am glad to hear that your condition is improving and with the wonderful Tessa and Lucy by your side you are blessed beyond words in the support category. Best of luck from Chicago. Hang in there.

  21. killian

    On the Bandwagon: TESSA 2016, with Salem as VEEP.
    Our country would never look brighter.
    Much love to you all in this happy recovery!!

  22. heike

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE LOOOOOOOOVE LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE, from all of us! MWAH MWAH MWAH! so relieved and hoping that it continues to go uphill from here. heike, david and leo.
    PS: Dear Lucy, we hope you feel better soon! it stinks like poopie old cow dung to have a bad cold and to feel miserable and not even to be able to get your dad to carry you to the couch to watch documentaries. come ON, Ian! this is getting so oooold! go home already.


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