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?