[Image: Courtesy of “Scattered Joy” blog]
We are all familiar with this question: “What can I do for my friend who is ill?” Perhaps my story will provide some answers to that question!
It’s been quiet here at “Margot’s Corner” because I have been ill for a month, including a hospital stay for ten days. I will spare you the details, which are interesting only to my family and medical team. Happily, I am now home, recovering from my “mystery malady.”
I learned, through this challenging time, to ask for help. One friend, in particular, was an “angel of mercy,” during my time of need. She will know who she is, when she reads this entry: This is my “thank you” to her and to ALL my helping and praying family and friends!
Note: “Hints” are for friends of the patient. “Tips” are for the patient.
Hint: No one receives adequate sleep in the hospital and an ill person craves sleep more desperately than even nutrition and company. So, always ask your friend if he/she is accepting visitors.
- When you sign the hospital admittance papers, specify “No Visitors” and “Do Not Give Out Information About Me.”
- Ask the staff to post a sign on your hospital door. My sign specified: “No Visitors, Except for My Family and Priests.” You can, of course, give your room number to specific clergy, family, and friends.
- Disconnect the “land phone” in the hospital room. In fact, disconnect BOTH land phones, if it is a semi-private room. They will, invariably, loudly ring and interrupt your sleep.
- Use your cell phone, if you must, but turn the ringer OFF when you are sleeping.
I asked my friend to ignore the sign on the door. I have known my friend for over 30 years; she practically IS family.
Having an eye for design, my lovely blue-eyed friend wore a beautiful Delft blue top, blue crystal earrings, and she carried a vase of “living” bright red tulips, still blooming from their bulbs. When I saw my friend walk into my hospital room, I exclaimed, “What beauty! What color!” [Pause.] “And just look at the tulips, too!”
Hint: A patient in the hospital craves beauty and color: As I gazed at those tulips, they were a living symbol of nature and a reminder of hope: I would soon return home, to plant my spring flowers!
Hint: Hospital rooms are very small, so be prepared, to [instead] deliver flowers to the home of your friend. He or she will enjoy them during recuperation, I assure you!
Tip: No appetite for hospital meals? From the Dietician’s Aide, request the “Fruit Plate with Cottage Cheese” or the “Supper Salad.”
Hint: During my hospital stay, I had little appetite for solid food — yet I craved something cold, liquid, nutritious, refreshing, healthy, and not sweet: My friend had the perfect solution: She brought me, for three consecutive days, a hand-made “Green Smoothie,” from her own kitchen: It was chock-full of organic vegetables and fruits, with no added sugar of any kind. I kept the “Smoothie” cold, in the styrofoam and plastic water pitcher on my “meal tray.” I am convinced my recovery began after the first sip of that “Smoothie.” My friend also provided the Smoothie recipe:
Green Smoothie Recipe
“If using a regular blender: First cut up [the veggies and fruit] into smaller pieces because they can get “stuck” or frozen. The key is to use small portions and blend, a little at a time, instead of putting it all in at once.
This will probably make enough “Smoothies” for two people. It will last two to three days, in the refrigerator, or you may freeze it in small containers, defrost, and re-blend. This recipe will yield about eight cups.
Put a few ice cubes in the blender and crush, to help solidify everything else. Then, add ingredients, one at a time, and blend:”
1 hand-full of fresh baby spinach leaves
2 small heads of broccoli
1/2 apple [core but do not peel]
a little bit of flax-seed oil, if you have it
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
4 frozen strawberries
4 slices of frozen peaches
Whatever else you may have in the refrigerator . . .
Ice: enough for desired consistency
Tip: The staff is very busy and does not have time to help a patient take a shower.
Tip: Plan ahead: Keep your essential toiletries in a travel pouch and grab it before you rush out the ER or Hospital.
Tip: The hospital supplies some toiletries but they are not available in quantity or quality.
Hint: While in the hospital, I was not yet strong or stable enough to take a shower by myself. So, my friend brought me samples of her luxurious shampoo and conditioner and helped me with my shower & shampoo. Now, that is a true girl friend!
Hint: A patient needs toiletries — without fragrances and with gentle [and, if possible, organic] ingredients. Ask your friend for suggestions. I recommend:
- Shampoo, conditioner, comb, headband, bath/shower gel, face moisturizer, body lotion, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, and lip balm.
- To encourage sleep: A sleep eye-mask, silicone ear plugs, and a homeopathic remedy: Hyland’s “Calms Forte.” [Of course, ask your physician about this remedy.]
Tip: Plan ahead: Every morning, ask “Housekeeping” for fresh bath linens, sox, and two hospital gowns. Also, ask “Housekeeping” to make your bed with fresh sheets, while you are in the shower.
Tip: Tie the first gown in the back. Over that first gown, tie the second gown in the front. Now, you have a “gown” and a “robe.” Clean sheets, clean gown & robe & sox, clean body & hair: It is bliss!
My friend recognized my need for stimulating conversation and indulged me by sitting with me in the “Waiting Room,” where we discussed theology for about fifteen minutes.
Hint: Your friend is eager to hear about the “outside world” and craves stimulating conversation. For myself, I was so weary of repeating my health issues that it was a relief to talk about anything other than my health. So, dear friends, please do not ask your ill friend for details.
- Offer to read a favorite book to your friend.
- Bring an iPod with ear buds and recorded books and beautiful music.
- Or, bring a magazine or a journal that you know your friend might appreciate: Ask for suggestions, however! A Birkenstock-wearing, silver-haired grandmother [like me] will prefer to read “Real Simple” or “Southern Living,” for instance.
Even though my priest, Fr. Michael, referred to my hospital stay as a “Reading Vacation,” the truth is that I was sleep-deprived: my head hurt, my eyes would not focus, and I had difficulty concentrating. I chuckled every time I glanced at the 1300-page volume of “Les Miserables,” which I asked my husband to bring me. I was too weak to even lift the heavy volume!
I would have been much happier with “Anne of Green Gables,” which I read, with glee, when I returned home.
Hint: Everyone needs a “comfort book,” to read when ill.
Visiting a friend in the hospital is an immense labor of love, time, and energy: A visitor must park in the parking deck, find the elevators, walk through endless corridors, and find the room number. After that Herculean effort, a friend does NOT want to find an empty room when he/she arrives.
[For instance, each diagnostic test, plus transport, requires one to two hours.]
Hint: If your friend is accepting visitors, send a text message confirmation before you leave for your hospital visit.
Tip: Text or call your family, friends, and clergy and advise them:
- if you are going to be absent from the hospital room for any reason.
- ASAP, after you find out you will be discharged.
Gifts from Family & Friends:
Tip & Hint: I sent brief daily email updates to one friend and to one family member: They “spread the word” to a wider circle of family and friends. Family and friends knew how to pray specifically for me. Such a blessing!
Hint: Friends prepared simple suppers for Stephen, which were invaluable. After working all day, Stephen came to visit me in the evenings in the hospital, knowing that he could look forward to a home-cooked meal. All he needed to do was microwave the supper. Soup and stews work particularly well.
Hint: Once I returned home, friends prepared simple suppers for both Stephen and me, which were delicious and most welcome.
Hint: Ask about strong preferences and intolerances. Store the supper in containers that your friend does not have to return. Or, if this is not possible, clearly label the storage containers and offer to pick up the containers. This is such a huge help!
To all my dear family, friends, and priests who are reading this blog entry: Thank you for your care, concern, and prayers!
One response to “A Friend In Need: Hospital Visits”
Thank you, Margot, for not only a very practical entry but one written with creativity and fun.
We will be visiting my Mom, who is recovering from a stroke. I had not thought of some of these tips and now I am excited to know there are a couple of wonderful things we can bring to her; an iPod with buds with classical music will be a real treat for her.
A quick anecdote: when Mom had a visitor, one who didn’t know her very well and who overstayed the visit, Mom would slowly nod off. Do we know if she was truly sleeping, or perhaps, in the only way her damaged body could relate to us, letting us all know she had had enough company for the time being? My brothers and sister and I suspect the latter, and we find it a pretty ingenious way for a stroke patient to help herself! 🙂
I am so grateful you have such a wonderful friend, and priests, to walk with you!