Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ways You Can Help When Someone is Hospitalized

The outpouring of love we were shown when Kerry was in the hospital was overwhelming. So much so I feel I owe a million thank-you's.

I also thought about how in the past I had no idea what to do for people in the hospital. I always had a fear of intruding or being a bother to someone. Mostly I felt like nothing I did would really matter.

After this experience, I can tell you everything matters! This has been an eye-opener for me and I will no longer think I cannot help in some way.

My purpose for this post is to give different ideas on how to help when a friend or loved one is hospitalized. Whether you are close friends with the patient or just a co-worker, here are some ways you can help.

  • Make sure the spouse has a ride to the hospital. In the midst of chaos and crisis the spouse doesn't need to be driving.
As soon as I called my mom and in-laws to tell them Kerry was being transferred to another hospital, they were both persistent that I did not drive myself. My mom could get there the quickest so I rode with her.
  • In those first hours be there--physically present--for support. Even if they don't allow you in the room, wait in the waiting room. It means the world to someone to know people are there with them and they are not alone.
My mom wanted to be with me, she wanted to know I was okay, and most importantly to be there in case I was not.

My in-laws were there as soon as they could be as well. They stayed at the hospital that night until very late. They sat with Kerry and me, and made sure everything was well taken care of.

Kerry spent the majority of the first day in the ER triage. Only two people could be in there at a time. I didn't want to leave his side, which left my mom and in-laws taking turns sitting in there with me. I was so happy to know they were all there.
  • If you are close with the person, offer to care for their children. Every parent, especially moms are burdened about what to do with their kids during a crisis. 
When I realized Kerry's condition was serious, I had to quickly find someone to watch my children. I was fortunate my good friend Danielle and her husband Mike live very close to the hospital. As soon as I called her she offered to come get them immediately and keep them as long as I needed.
  • If you are keeping their children, really care for them. Also, send the parents text updates with pictures letting them know how well the kids are doing. This continues to put the parent's minds at ease.
Danielle and Mike ended up keeping our kids overnight and took them to church the next morning. They fed my kids, played with them, clothed them, and did everything Kerry and I would do for them. Danielle also sent me updates on how they were doing and pictures of them having fun. I never ask her to text me; she just did. I needed that. I never once worried about them or if they were being well taken care of. She and Mike are rock stars for caring for my kids so my mom and in-laws could be at the hospital with Kerry and I the first night.
  • If the hospital stay is going to be a few days or longer, offer to keep the children at their own house. Routine is what most children, especially small ones need. If you can keep them in their environment it helps alleviate some of the stress for the kids and parents.
After the first night my mom took care of my kids the remainder of Kerry's time in the hospital. She stayed at our house with them, took them to school, kept them in their routine. It was a huge relief to never worry about them. She also called and text me updates without being asked.
  • If you live close to the hospital, offer your home for a shower, a good night's sleep, laundry, a home-cooked meal. Offer it, and demand they know you are serious. Bring them a key if you have to. They may not take you up on it, but it's something they need to know is an option.
I had many people offer me a place to stay if needed. It was comforting to know I had that option.
  • If you are close family/friend offer to stay for a few hours or an entire night with the one hospitalized so the spouse can get out of the hospital for a few hours or to sleep in a real bed for the night.
My mother-in-law stayed with Kerry one night, allowing me to go to my Aunt and Uncle's house to shower and get a good night's sleep. This was greatly needed for me, and I didn't feel near as guilty knowing someone else was with Kerry for the night. I wouldn't have left him overnight had she not stayed with him.
  • Offer to help out getting the kids to activities. Do your kids go to ballet, soccer, karate, etc. together? Let them know you would gladly come get them for the activity and take them back home afterwards.
Our kids babysitter Kat, gladly took Hayden to dance class so my mom wouldn't have to. This was a big help for my mom.
  • Call or text the spouse and ask what they would like from a specific coffee shop, restaurant, or convienince store. It's important to say directly, "I'm headed to Starbucks and then to see you at the hospital...what coffee is your favorite and what kind of muffin do you like?" If you just say, "Can I get you something?" or "Do you need anything?" they will not take you up on it most of the time. People feel burdened about being a burden to others, don't leave it up to them to reach out.
Our friends Kasey and Angela called one afternoon and made me tell them what I wanted for dinner. They went to Panera and picked it up and brought it to the hospital.

Samantha, a friend I haven't seen since college saw my Facebook and immediately messaged me asking what she could do. She actually got specific asking what she could bring me from Starbucks. I was very hungry and needing caffeine. I took her up on her offer. She and her beautiful daughter brought it by and simply dropped it off so they wouldn't wake Kerry. She also continued to check on me and see if I needed anything else during our stay.
  • Show up with coffee or food without any notice.
One morning my friend Andrea showed up on her own with drinks from Starbucks. I was so thankful as I needed some caffeine right at that moment. She dropped them off on her way to work. I was so thankful to have this nice treat as a surprise.

Our friends Randy and Shawna brought cookies for our kids to have when they came to visit their daddy in the hospital.

My mom bought snacks and left them for me.
  • If you are healthy (this is important, don't show up sick) and able, go visit them in the hospital. Hospital stays get lonely, and when people come visit you know they genuinely care about you. It's nice to see loving faces and have conversations with people other than the nurses and doctors. It is a welcomed distraction from the boredom and depression of being closed off in a hospital room.
We had so many people come visit one of the days. It was nice. It took Kerry's mind off the pain, and it gave me a boost of support with each family member and friend that came by.
  • Give them gift cards or money for meals, gas, vending machines, walmart, target, etc.
My dad and Kerry's Meemaw and Papa both gave us money to make sure we didn't have to worry about spending our own money while there. At first I tried to decline it, but after a few days, I was so thankful we had it. My mom also brought a Ziploc bag of quarters. Those came in handy for the vending machines. Something I would never have thought of.
  • If you aren't able to visit them in the hospital make sure to call, text, or reach out to them on social media each day. It will not annoy them. They may not answer you right away or somedays at all, but it will mean the world to them that you are checking in on them.
Many people text and called often. Most of the time I was able to answer them. It was so nice to know people were praying and genuinely cared.

My niece Deana, our mutual friend Jennifer, and I have stayed in an ongoing group text for the past year or so. We are usually talking about things our kids do to drive us crazy or sending funny articles or memes to each other. We are always sarcastic and love to make each other laugh. During this time, they continued to send me texts. They were serious about prayers and concern for Kerry, but also continued to me make me laugh. I needed to laugh. I told them I would always need that. I appreciate they didn't go away for those few days in fear of what to say, what not to say.

My friends Danielle and Kelly also sent me texts and made me laugh daily.
  • Offer to bring clothes, blankets, and pillows from their home
My sister-in-law texted me about purchasing some clothes for me to have in the hospital, but I told her my mom was bringing me some from home the next day. I was very appreciative of the offer though.

Our pastor's wife is a nurse at the hospital. She came by a few times to see what we needed. One night she took Kerry's blanket and pillow home, washed it, and brought it back. It actually made him feel better once he smelled it. I remember him saying, "Gosh, this smells so good and clean." Those little things matter.
  • Pray, genuinely pray for the person hospitalized and their family.
We had so many people and churches let us know they were praying. I felt those prayers. Those prayers kept me calm, made me feel safe, and God answered them in healing Kerry. Don't ever think your prayers don't matter; they matter in a big way.

Lastly here are some things people need during their stay and may not have with them.  I happened to have most of these, but it made me take note of what people might need in the future.
  • A blanket 
  • Pillows
  • A sweatshirt or hoodie (hospitals are freezing)
  • Sweatpants
  • Warm socks
  • Snacks
  • Magazines or books
  • Toothbrush and Paste
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Lotion
  • Dry Shampoo (I didn't think of this until later, but it would've been nice to have)
  • Razor and Shaving Cream
  • Mints, Gum, Hard Candy
  • Bottled Water
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Change for vending machines
  • Contacts case and saline 
  • Good toilet paper!
  • iTunes, Kindle, Nook gift card (if you know what device they have)
  • Chapstick
  • Phone charger

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Right Beside Me

My kids are fighting and making messes, I've just finished cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the floors, and sorting the laundry. College football is playing on the TV while Kerry naps on the couch. There is nothing special about today, except today is all I longed for a week ago.

A week ago today I dropped Kerry off at the Tahlequah hospital ER, frustrated that the urgent care wasn't open and he would have to sit for hours at the ER only to be told he had a virus and given a huge bill afterwards. I would have to find something to do for a few hours with the kids while he waited on a doctor to see him. Why did he have to feel so badly on Labor Day weekend?

A few hours later I went back to check on him after he stopped returning my texts only to find out he was very sick. Very sick and they didn't know why. He had even passed out in the room while waiting to get an X-ray. His blood pressure was dangerously low and his heart rate elevated. And earlier I had just dropped him off...

I let the doctor know I would be right back, I needed to get my kids somewhere and I needed to be with Kerry. Frantically I called my friend Danielle, who lives just a few minutes from the hospital and she very graciously offered to watch them until we got this all sorted out.

After a few hours the doctor eventually said he wasn't sure what was going on and Kerry needed an MRI, something they could not do for three days. He didn't want to take that risk because Kerry's body was in shock, and they were concerned about a possible abscess.  The doctor wanted to send us on to Tulsa. He gave us three choices and we chose St. Francis. Kerry would have to go by ambulance due to his vitals and I wasn't allowed to ride with him.

I tried not to be freaked out, but I was. I had to go outside to make the necessary phone calls to family and I was shaking. I wanted to get it together for Kerry, but my own body gave me away. Luckily, he was on a lot of morphine, and felt too good at the moment to be worried.

I drove to Muskogee to meet my mom for her to drive me to Tulsa. I cried and pleaded with God the whole way to Muskogee. That was the end of my freaking out.

I got in the car with my mom, we arrived at the hospital shortly before Kerry's ambulance. They got him into a triage room and went to work trying to figure out this mystery. I've never seen him so sick, so miserable, yet I was able to hold it together. I remember watching his vitals and being concerned with his heart rate, but I was held together; I didn't panic.

Close to 11:00 p.m. they thought they might know what was wrong, but it still didn't make sense that he was in septic shock or that his lymph nodes were swollen in his abdomen. So they would ultimately need to continue running tests. He had an MRI and was finally to get in a room after midnight. Getting a room was a short miracle in itself...they weren't sure if they would have any, the hospital was so packed.

That night and the following night were so hard on Kerry. He was so sick. He seemed to get some relief from the pain meds, but as soon as they wore off he was very sick and in pain again. We spent the first few nights calling the nurse and nurse tech about once an hour.

The doctor would come in each afternoon/evening and again tell us they haven't figured out what was going on. All they could tell was that he had a bad infection, but where it was coming from or what kind it actually was remained a mystery.

Tuesday Kerry started feeling better and we had noticed they cut him off of the strong antibiotics and started him on a new med late the night before. The doctor came in late Tuesday night about 10:45 and he told us they had finally had a diagnosis.

He had cryptosporidiosis, caused by the bacteria cryptosproridium normally found in swimming water, but it can be passed person to person. It's not uncommon, but it is rare for people to be hospitalized for it. That is why the normal tests hadn't found it. The kids and I had a stomach virus the previous week and I was actually still recovering from it. He most likely got it from us since he hadn't been swimming at all this summer. For whatever reason his immune system didn't fight it off like it should have. This led to him getting so sick and his body going into septic shock.

The new medicine they had switched him to the night before was treating it, and that was why he had started getting better. We were so relieved to finally have an answer, an answer that was a simple medicinal fix, and to get wonderful news that he could go home the following day.

As the doctor left, I exhaled for what seemed like the first time in a few days. With that exhale poured out emotions of relief and I actually felt the heaviness of all that transpired leaving my body. I cried over Kerry and praised God for allowing him to remain here on earth with me.

The next day as we waited for the final word from the doctor that we could go home, I sat and reflected back on everything. Something God just didn't allow me to do until later, until it was safe to do so.

I wasn't supposed to be home last weekend. I was originally going to be at my granny's house for the weekend caring for her. My dad had called me a few days before and said someone else wanted to take care of her that weekend. I should've been gone; Kerry would've been alone, at home, by himself. He most likely would've just stayed in bed and tried to ride it out until I could get home on Sunday and take him to the doctor. That might have been much too late.

Had Tahlequah been able to do an MRI, they would have kept Kerry there. Possibly never finding the cause. Kerry's doctor at St. Francis told us the test that discovered Kerry's infection is pretty advanced and he wasn't even sure that St. John's had it yet. Also the fact that we chose St. Francis over two other hospitals in Tulsa, including St. John's.

There were so many little ways in which God redirected our path to get him exactly where he needed to be.

After my prayer on the way to the hospital I can tell you that God took over for me. Someone a few days later commented about how strong I was during all this. I can honestly promise you I was not. I look back and can't believe how held together I appeared, but it wasn't me. I truly understand what it means to be sustained and carried by God in the midst of a scary time. God did not let me sit and worry and think about all that was currently going on. He just didn't. It was as if he kept my mind clear, focused, and removed the ability to worry or panic. You can ask people that know me well:  I can be a huge worry-wart. I have been known to entertain my negative thoughts so much you'd think they were my best friend. So I promise you when I say God removed that ability, he actually did.

I am the world's worst at memorizing Scripture. I have always admired Christians that just pull a verse out of thin air that they have memorized. While I don't have Scripture memorized in that way, I knew the promises and truths of God's Word. I was reminded of them over and over by him; I couldn't have quoted anything in those moments, but I knew them in my heart, I truly did. I felt surrounded and held together by his word.

We got home Wednesday and spent the evening catching up with and loving on the kids. Being away from them for so long was probably the hardest part for me. After everyone went to bed that night I was still up and listening to my iPod. The song "Your Hands" by JJ Heller came on in my shuffle mix. Immediately I thought, "Oh, this is the song I've been trying to think of forever that I think Maci (our niece) could sing really well." Then as I listened to the chorus

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking I never leave your hands

I exhaled again like I had the night before and it all came pouring out. Every emotion I hadn't felt in the hospital made it's way to the surface and flooded out like a dam had burst. I wept and wept. I praised God for all he brought us through and again I thanked him for allowing Kerry to remain here with me. I was filled with gratefulness that he was okay, yet so burdened for those around me that have had to say good bye to their loved ones. Because of that I refuse to take this gift of being a wife and mom for granted. I will cherish the marriage I have and thank God for each new day with my best friend. 

"I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me." Psalms 16:8

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Psalm 54:4

Deacon's Favorites, Six-Year-Old Edition

Deacon's annual favorites list.

Color -- Green and Blue
Toy -- Legos
Fruit -- Bananas
Veggie -- Carrots
Dinner to eat -- Cheese Pizza
Outfit -- My new shirts
Board Game -- Connect Four
Snack -- Fruit Snacks
Animal -- Cows
Song -- Jesus Loves Me
Book -- "The Wicked Big Toddlah" by Kevin Hawkes
Friend -- Ruger
Cereal -- Cinnamon Roll Crunch (Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
Outside Activity -- Play catch
Beverage -- Water
Holiday -- Christmas
Breakfast Food -- Pancakes
TV Show -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Candy -- Chocolate Bunnies
Movie -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Restaurant -- Chilis
Store -- Dick's Sporting Goods
Sport -- T-ball
Season -- Summer
Thing to do with Mama -- See a movie with her
Thing to do with Daddy -- Play bowling, putt-putt, and golf
Place to go -- Branson 
Favorite thing to play with Hayden -- Play catch

Superhero -- Iron Man
Guy -- Daddy

Gal -- Ainslee, Mama, and Hayden
What do you want to be when you grow up?  A person that works at Dick's Sporting Goods