Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hospital Etiquette

Is there such a thing?

When you find out someone close to you (other than a family member) is in the hospital in an emergency situation, what do you do?

Do you run to your computer and post it on all social media for anyone and everyone to know?

If it is yourself or a loved one in the hospital do you want to be left alone or do you want calls and visitors?

Do you call or text them and say how sorry you are to hear that and then say “let me know if you need anything”?

These are the questions I wonder how others feel about because I have my own thoughts on them, which you may or may not agree with. And I am guilty of not doing some of the things I will mention!

 So this past weekend we found ourselves at Strong Hospital in Rochester, NY with our son, again. He was born a preemie there almost 16 years ago and spent the first 3 months of his life in the NICU.

Eight years after that he ended up there again with a rare staph condition that kept him there almost a week.

This time we were there for a collapsed lung. The explanation for that is that he is tall and skinny!

This is the best hospital in the city and very familiar to us. As I was driving there one morning I was reflecting on things over the past few days that we’d been there and specifically on the reaction and response of our friends.

My daughters were the only family members that I had the time or wits about me to inform about this trip to the hospital and I called them from the ambulance on the way.

There were others we wanted to let know, knowing they would pray and that they would be concerned. Others found out because of plans and events that had to be cancelled. We were adamant about this kind of news NOT being posted on Facebook. Why? Because we would eventually get to the task of informing those we knew would want to know…..those who are in our lives and we know care about us.....and not have them find out on Facebook. 

 So our first night, actually while still in the ER, a close friend came to sit with us. It was a blessing to have someone to fill in the conversation while waiting for all the medical stuff to happen. Since neither my husband or I wanted to leave our son at that point, it was great to have him go to the cafeteria to get some dinner for us and to sit and wait with us while they were doing a procedure on our son.

The next day my son’s youth pastor called to see if he could visit, but by the time he got there Michael had just fallen asleep. It gave us an opportunity to chat with and get to know the Pastor better and for him to know about Michael more. That was great.

A couple friend of ours called and asked if they could visit. They asked if they could bring anything for us and then came with balloons and gifts for Michael. While they were there they offered to stay with Michael so that my husband and I could go down to the cafeteria for some dinner. You see it was our 18th wedding anniversary and that was our only option to “celebrate”! They got some time with Michael, we had an “anniversary” dinner and it helped pass the endless hours of sitting in a hospital room.

A childhood friend of Michael's called to see how he was and just wanted to know if he was going to be okay.

Others have consistently texted or called for updates.

I have given you these examples because I think those are great ways to follow through on the “let me know if you need anything” phrase we find ourselves saying but have no idea what that might be. The best part is that we didn’t ask any of those people to do what they did.

The Lord has a lot to say about doing for others in the bible. In James 2:15 it says “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” 

 He’s already commanded it…. now go and just DO IT. 

When I am the one in the hospital I just like to know that people close to me and that I care about are concerned and that they called. I also like to know that they checked up on me. Yes, I am guilty of not doing this! I may not want visitors while I am in the hospital because of how I feel or how I look, but just knowing that someone expressed their concern lifts the spirits. My least favorite phrase is "I was giving you time". Now is the time, when I feel terrible, to let me know that you care!!

Instead of focusing on the people that did reach out, sometimes I focus on the ones who didn’t, that I think should have. I find that most respond to the initial news, say “let me know if you need anything” and then you never hear from them again. When they are people I consider close or part of my life, it is upsetting. But I do realize that not everyone acts or responds to the same situation the same way. Or the way I think they should.

And I am guilty of not doing the very things that upset me.

Why? I think there is that fear of bugging people while they are sick, or not knowing what to say, or that maybe I am not someone they even want to hear from! I am afraid I will call at the wrong time or say the wrong thing. 

If you are someone that truly wants to reach out and do something but don’t know what to do, you may find yourself just doing nothing.

Here’s a few suggestions that I personally would want from people and that I would feel comfortable doing myself.

 *  Instead of saying “let me know if there’s anything I can do”,offer to go to their house and water their plants or feed their cat. Offer to bring their books from home to them. Bring lunch or some cookies to the family members sitting at the hospital all day. Hey, go and mow their lawn! 
·     *  Actually avoid the phrase “let me know if there is anything I can do” altogether! Not very many in the thick of the situation will call you for something.
·     *  Offer to relieve the family members to go eat or to go out to get some fresh air. Call first to be sure it is okay to drop in at the hospital.
·     *  Check up and then follow up. After the initial news while they are in the hospital and when they get home give a call to a family member or to them depending on their condition, to see how they are doing and then check back every so often. I just joined the world of texting and I find it a great way to send a quick note that the recipient can respond to at their leisure, or not at all. The key here is that you are calling them for an update, not asking for them to give you one.  There is much to do sometimes for someone sitting with the sick person that making a call to everyone that asks for an update is just not possible. If you call them they can pick up if they are free or call you back if they aren’t.
·      * Consider the time of day. Early morning or late evening is probably not the best time to call for an update.
  * Our lives are all busier than they ever have been and most of our communication is through social media. In this case I think a personal, private message on Facebook or texting is perfectly fine to express your concern if you just can’t make a trip to the hospital or to their home. I think that if you have their cell phone number in your phone, you are close enough to text them for updates!

   These are just my personal observations, perceptions and feelings on the subject of hospital etiquette.

   How do you feel about it? 

    Are you a sayer or a doer?

    AnnMarie xoxo

P.S. My son is home now and doing fine. He just can't play basketball for a few weeks!

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  1. I loved your post and I have been in your situation with a child in the Hosp. unfortunatly it has been more than once and at one time it was for 51 days...45 in the PICU..I agree when you are a parent dealing with an emergency you do not think to go down your contacts list and inform everyone. I did learn in this ordeal those people in my life that are concerned about my family and the ones that just sulk because I had not called like I normally do. It really puts prespective on relationships. I will have to say the most helpful friends did not come to the hosp. They went to my home brought food for the child I had at home and my husband. I was not there to cook or keep up with groceries. I had one friend that even made sure my youngest teenager had gas money a few bucks on him. Thank you for sharing your thoughts...and I do hope that all is well!

  2. Dear AnnMarie,

    I agree it is often the people who don't call or ask if you are in need of something and then feel they were "giving you time". It is always nice to know that you are being thought of. Most of the time you will not even ask for anything. You are only asking to be thought of.
    It is good to hear that your son is doing well and I will keep you all in my prayers.
    blessings, Catherine

  3. First, I'm glad to hear that your son is okay. I think your suggestions are excellent ones; and yes, I've been guilty, too, of not always doing the right thing. "Let me know if there's anything I can do" is an empty phrase that I have used too many times myself, mostly when I didn't know what to say The idea of just offering some specific way to help, like watering plants or bringing food, is much more meaningful, as you've noted. Great post, AnnMarie, and I will remember your suggestions..

  4. Wow, so sorry to hear about your son and so glad to hear he is fine!
    I just went through this situation with a friend. She is a the Mom to a little girl that my little girl goes to school with. She was in the hospital for ten days but I didn't know about it until later because I am not always checking Facebook. I texted and sent emails and did just what you said people do "Is there anything you need...blah blah"..... I wanted to do something but wanted to know SHE wanted me to be that person. Sometimes people have a zillion friends and I just might not be the one she wants in there or at her house. So, I am now taking her to lunch since she is feeling better.... I figured it is a better way to get to know her.

  5. Good to know that your son is home and doing OK, great advice and thoughts on the hospital etiquette too. xx

  6. Loved this, and thank you Jesus that your son is now safely home! Sometimes the personal touch from someone via card, phone call or visit despite busy lives mean so much. I have added your son to my prayer list :-)
    Cathy @ three kids and a fish

  7. First, I'm glad your son is doing well. I usually follow the phrase "let me know if there is anything I can do" with one or two specific things I can think of that might help.

  8. Oh honey, I didn't know otherwised I'd pray for your dear son, but I'm so glad he is home! I loved your post and I'm keeping it for the great advice.
    Thank you for your kind visit my friend.

  9. It is hard to know how to help someone but a good reminder that a phone call sometimes is enough. Sometimes though I think we do need to take people up on their offer and let them know what they can do to help. Of course, there are those that really don't want to help and it's just idle talk but there are those that really would like to do something if asked.

  10. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this post. There are so many times I feel helpless when all I want to do is help and your suggestions of what to do is just what I needed. I truly appreciate this, sweet friend.

    Keeping your son in my prayers! Hugs to you.

  11. So glad your son is doing well! I'm one that struggles with knowing what to say or do sometimes, but I do mean well. I do want to help. Thanks for all the suggestions. I will remember them next I have a friend in need.

  12. I'm glad your DS will be able to be back on the court in a couple weeks. This is such a delicate subject and you have given us a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing from the inside the eye of the hurricane.

  13. Glad he is home! Always scary when something like that happens. You shared some great advice. I just go with my gut. Always want people to know that I care. I agree, facebook is not the place!


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