How to Support a Friend in the Hospital

I’ve had another round of hospitalizations recently due to bowel obstructions. It’s been a challenging spring, being admitted three times in the month of May alone. Brutal. Frustrating. Kind of makes me want to go underground and not reach out to my support system. Mostly because some defeatist depression kicks in, and partly because it is completely exhausting and I feel miserable. Sometimes I think I don’t want to see anyone.

So when a wonderful friend asked if she could come visit, I replied, “I don’t think so, but thanks”. I’m really happy she saw through my sadness and stopped by anyway.

I’m a super social, high level extrovert. This means I am energized by being around people. I absolutely know that laughter is the best medicine and love love love being with family and friends. Wouldn’t you think I’d love visitors? Nope.

A few hours later, I got a text, “what room are you in? I’m downstairs and only have 5 minutes”.

Does it feel wonderful when a dear friend drops by for literally 5 minutes with trashy magazines, an activity and some candy for when I’m better?¬†You bet it does.

 

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Pictured here is the most excellent gift – a tray loaded with activities and comfort.

Bring a Tray of Encouragement

How fantastic is this All American tray, complete with:

  1. Wall art with a wonderful encouraging message
  2. Party lights so I could look forward to the Fourth of July next month
  3. Candy for motivation for when I can eat again
  4. Magazines to stay in touch with the really important stuff ūüėČ like Hollywood gossip
  5. Coloring book with some awesome double ended markers for creative distraction 

The added bonus of bringing a tray to a friend in the hospital was that it kept all of my bits and pieces organized. Earplugs, eye mask, eye cream, hand cream, music, magazines and of course compelling hospital literature. When the nutrition team brought my pathetic excuse for liquid meals, they simply moved my tray and placed the food tray down. Voila! Genius unexpected transition.

Over the years I’ve had tremendous support from family, coworkers, friends and neighbors. What I’ve learned, and experienced myself, is that you need to ask for help. Be specific on what you need. And when you think you don’t need a friend, you most probably do.

I’ve shared other ideas for how to support a friend in the hospital in other posts like Good Form¬†when my mother brought me a wooden artist’s figure and when my friend came by with beautifully scented hand cream. Hand made cards from my neighbor girls. Simple, loving, and uplifting.

It really feels good to get support and it can come in the form of loving texts, emails and phone calls, but the in-person visits, are often hit and miss. I just don’t usually want to be that girl in the hospital bed with people looking at me with pity.

Also, people always ask me what happened and why it can’t be fixed. ¬†I have no answers and it’s tiring. I do my very best to watch the foods I eat, get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. I know these things, I know how to avoid a blockages. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what I do right, some combination of stress, food, inflammation, dehydration or scar tissue causes my intestine to stall out, resulting in a lot of pain, nausea, and typically, if it doesn’t resolve itself, we’re on our way to the E.R.

There is some weird guilt thing that happens to me each time my life gets derailed by a blockage. I feel vulnerable and weak, I imagine people think I brought it on, could have avoided it, need to rest more, slow down, etc… ¬†I’ve had an ileostomy for 20 YEARS now and I am usually very healthy, active and balanced. I feel lousy when this happens and wish I could pin point exactly what went sideways but typically it’s not that straight forward. I’m sure I’m feeling sorry for myself, and also, just don’t have the energy for the questions. But I still need extra TLC even if I’m keeping the blinds closed.

So when you suspect a loved one is isolating themselves, I encourage you to push a little. Offer to stop by.

Insist on a Five Minute Drop By

I recommend letting your loved one know that you are dropping something off but only have five minutes. Make it brief and bring an activity and something to help them look forward to better days to come. The visit will probably last longer, but 5 minutes feels doable, even when you’re fighting off chronic illness depression.

There’s almost never a perfect time for a visit in the hospital and there’s no guessing when our doctors will stop by, or we’ll be whisked off for a test or be on a sightseeing walk around the floor. There is no good time, there is no bad time, just make it brief and be available to wait for a bit if necessary. Above all, show up.