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Spring 2019

(Originall published in Spring 2005 SEE/HEAR Newsletter)

By Alaine Hinds, Deafblind Family Leadership Participant and TAPVI Co-Chair, LaPorte

Abstract: Pick up on some wonderful tips for supporting parents while their child is in the hospital.

Keywords: Family, blind, deafblind leadership, hospital tips


No matter how prepared I try to be before any surgery or scheduled hospital stay, I always seem to get caught off guard. There is always the unexpected stay after day surgery or the longer than usual stay in the hospital. During these times, I depend heavily on my family and friends. I find that my friends who also have children with special needs seem to be able to tune into what I most need during these trying times. Most of them have been in similar situations and can relate. Here are some suggestions on making any stay in a hospital a pleasant one for a friend and their family.

For major surgery or hospital stays, always consider what you may want and probably forgot. One of the best presents I ever received was a multi-pocketed bag put together by my Sunday School class before my daughter had hip surgery. We anticipated a 5-hour surgery followed by a 2-day hospital stay. The bag contained several bags of chips for the nervous parents who were afraid to leave to get breakfast for fear that we would miss a call from the operating room. Gum and mints were tucked inside as well as change to be used in a vending machine. Pain reliever, Tums, and chewable Pepto-Bismol helped to calm our nervous stomachs and headache. A magazine and short book of “mommyisms” helped to pass the time and did not require too much concentration. Some samples of perfume and make-up helped me always appear presentable as the days wore on. A nail file was included and turned out to be the most used item. A small toothbrush and toothpaste was included. Pen and paper were handy to jot down what the doctor said and remind us of additional questions we wanted to ask. Cards of encouragement and support from members of the class reminded us that a lot of people were pulling for us and a lot of prayers were coming our way.

Additional things I would include would be a pair of socks. Is it my imagination or is it always that cold in the hospital at night? A long distance calling card comes in handy if your friends have family out of the area that they may want to update. Hospital rules usually do not allow people to use cellular phones inside of the hospital and I find that I am always afraid to step away from the waiting area or my child’s side. Cheap phone cards can now even be found in “dollar” stores.

I have found that it is difficult to eat in a hospital if your child is young and needs someone in the room at all times. I am usually reminded to eat and at that point-anything tastes good. Microwave popcorn is one of my favorites. Microwaves can be found at the nurses’stations, in waiting rooms and sometimes near vending machines. You can also buy some pretty good microwave meals that do not require refrigeration. Drinks become very expensive if you have to rely on the vending machines. A six pack of their favorite soft drink can be put over ice that is available at the nurses’ station. For those who cannot function without coffee, you can purchase single servings of a variety of instant coffees or teas. Hot water can be obtained from the nurses’ station or waiting rooms. Speaking of food, the quick delivery of take out to the hospital is always appreciated. Check with the nurses and they can tell you what is available and what they recommend. I have picked up food and delivered it to my friend’s room or in a pinch, pulled up to the lobby and had them meet me to get their hot food. You can also prepay to some delivery pizza places and let them deliver. If the parents are in the hospital for more than a few days, food not prepared at the hospital is a real treat.

After the hospital stay, most of us will agree that it is great if someone stops by with a meal or brings a few fresh groceries. We are usually so exhausted from our hospital stay and are truly in need of quick and easy food. Even a bucket of chicken means I don’t have to cook that night. Someone who offers to quickly vacuum or dust in my home is never turned down. Video or DVD rentals are also appreciated so the family can relax at home together.

Let’s not forget about any siblings who may be feeling left out and confused. A small present for them helps to ease their tension. Offers to watch the siblings or bring them to visit in the hospital are greatly appreciated by the parents. If they are unable to visit, I sometimes offer to take a digital picture of the child with their parents to e-mail to the siblings to assure them that their brother or sister is doing okay. It helps them to feel included and understand what is happening at the hospital. A disposable camera can also be left at the hospital to capture and document the hospital stay. I wish I had thought to take pictures after various surgeries to put in my daughter’s scrapbook later.

I think most of us always remember to bring something special for the patient. It could be a rattle or teether for a baby, a coloring book or paint with water for a child, or a book or video for a teenager. Many hospitals have VCRs and Playstation or Nintendo available to be used by the patients. For children with no vision or the ones who have had eye surgery, magnetic playsets, play dough, talking storybook or a musical toy would be appreciated.

These are just some thoughts about what you may do to help a friend through their hospital stay. You can never go wrong if you put yourself in their shoes and do what you would want someone to do for you. If their stay turns out to be longer than anticipated, stop by their house and pick up clean clothes or buy them a new T-shirt. Ask them if they need anything. Most of us appreciate the help and support our friends give us. Your thoughtfulness and kindness can make a difficult time more bearable. Your friendship is needed most during these hospital stays.