In December of 2014, our youngest son was born with a Congenital Heart Defect called TGA or Transposition of the Great Arteries. We spent five weeks living at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and know firsthand how the support and love of friends, family, and community can bring light to your darkest days.
There are a lot of posts that tell you what not to say to families with a sick kid, and I don’t know that I agree with all of them. Are there things I wish people didn’t say to us at that time? Sure! But I can’t say with 100% certainty that if I hadn’t gone through what we did that I wouldn’t have echoed those very same words that made me cringe to someone going through exactly what we did. Until you are in that situation, you just don’t know. And to be honest, I would never wish on anyone the ability of being able to relate to our situation—ever.
Instead, I’d like to share what made us feel supported while our son was in the hospital. Try these if you want to support someone in the situation:
This one may sound basic, but trust me—it helps. There were many days we would forget to eat. We were so caught up in what was happening that it just wasn’t a priority. Then we’d get a call that one of our amazing friends was in the hallway with dinner, and we’d remember it had been a whole day since we ate last. It was the only part of the day that one of us wasn’t in our son’s room. We would take an hour, go find a quiet spot in one of the lobbies, turn on an episode of our Netflix binge at the time (Sons of Anarchy), and tune out of everything we were going through. My amazing company got us a gift card to a service that delivered take out from local restaurants, and we came to look forward to that meal and that hour every day. It gave my husband and me a chance to eat and to reconnect with each other. I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone that made or sent us food in one way or another.
I’m sure that most people do not want to feel like a burden to families with sick kids by calling or texting or “bothering” them. Trust me on this one—it is not a bother. It is welcomed. It was so comforting to me to know that someone was thinking of us. Some of those days were the worst days of our lives, and one text just letting us know someone was thinking of us would give us hope. It would make us smile. It provided comfort. There is a lot of down time when you are in the hospital with a sick child. There is a lot of sitting and waiting. Don’t be afraid to call, to text, to pop in for a visit, or to send a card. It is so appreciated.
A parent in this situation will be hesitant to ask for help. I had a few really great friends who put things in place for us such as our meal train, playdates for the older kids, and help coming with us to doctor appointments. They didn’t ask; they just did it. It was one less thing for us to worry about, and it was amazing. I’m thankful for those friends.
I was so grateful for friends and family that took the time to look up our son’s condition and therefore were able to ask reasonable questions and listen with an understanding ear to what was happening. That did not go unnoticed.
Being the parent of a sick child is hard. It is scary, and knowing we had the support and love of friends and family was what got us through each day. We will forever be grateful to the hundreds—literally hundreds—of messages, emails, texts, calls, and visits we received during those days.