Yesterday when we were checking into the Ronald McDonald house, our host asked where we were from. When we said Utah, he said, “Oh! Mormon country!”… Then after a pause told us he’d just come back from Utah after helping to settle some kids who’d been through a really rough time. “Mormons really take care of their own.”
We can testify from our own experience that that is true. And yet, our amazing friends, family, and congregation are always asking what more they can do. One of the questions we hear most during these long difficult stretches is “How can I help?”
So, in tribute to all of you, and in answer to the dozens of people who have asked for ways to help over the past few weeks, I thought I’d pass our waiting room time bragging about some of the ways we’ve been helped over the years.
1. Visits.. It doesn’t matter if we’re at home or in the hospital. A new person always lightens and lifts the mood. For example, last hospital stay one of our friends was brought to the hospital for work and found herself with some extra time. She texted and asked if it was a good time to stop by. She came and, because Patrick needed out of the room, we walked down to the playroom. That’s when we discovered his line had broken and we turned around and headed back to the room. She walked with us, and as nurses swarmed the room to help the problem, noticed that the breakfast cart had come. So she went and picked up a muffin and milk for me.
I share this story for two reasons. First, it shows that you might just dive into chaos and wonder if you’re in the way. The truth is that Patrick talks about who visited all day long, whether the visit was at a “good time” or not, whether we actually had time to chat and play or not.
When we got home, another friend came to visit and brought a few new toys and a balloon. (New distractions are always a big help). Patrick’s talking about that visit a week later.
We get lonely. We get sick of each other. We need our days broken up. We may not be great hosts, but just your presence helps.
2. Food. In the Mormon world, bringing food is something we’re exceptional at. And believe it or not, it really helps. On the return from one hospital stay, a friend showed up with a pan of uncooked enchiladas. It was a few days later when we got to cooking them, but it was so nice to have a prepared meal in the fridge. Once we returned home from a trip to find a pizza on the porch. And you may remember when we charged a cookie entrance fee to visit Patrick in the PICU. Those cookies were needed sugar during time when we rarely wanted to leave Patrick’s side, and a lot of fun to share with nurses and other hospital staff and patients as we had so many of them that we couldn’t eat them all.
In the hospital, lunches are especially challenging for me. I often can’t get out of the room to get something to eat. Once, I picked up the phone to order room service to the ER 10 times in an hour and never could stay on the phone long enough to place an order. I often just skip lunch when Patrick is hospitalized. But I’m a grumpy bear when I’m hungry. Food helps me be a better mom.
If you really want to make my day when we’re in the hospital, show up with a sandwich or some snacks. (Do you know there was once when Patrick ran a fever and wanted me to lay in bed with him for 48 hours and the only food I ate were the snacks friends delivered?)
I love our family who faithfully pack Sunday picnic lunches to eat on the patio? Even though the medflight helicopters blow all of the food away when they take off and land? And I love my mom who often things to bring along things like fresh fruit and vegetables.
3. Play time. You’d have to not be looking to miss that Patrick is a VERY active and playful little boy. He wants to be doing something every moment and if he gets bored can stumble into trouble very quickly. One of the biggest helps for me is when someone will come to play.
For this entire summer, my next door neighbor’s youngest daughter has been coming over to play with Patrick. She has so much more energy than me and is more than happy to push him all around the backyard in his stroller to make him laugh, or to read books, or to do crafts. We’ve even taken a couple of field trips to a nearby splash pad. Because Patrick’s an only child, having another child to play with is an amazing gift for him. And for me? It gives me a short break from being the one who thinks of fun things to do.
Playdates are an amazing help. The patient practice Patrick gets playing with other kids. Often they come at moments where you may wonder why we’re crazy enough to go out, but it offers just the break and distraction we needed.
I’ve had teenagers come to play while I did dishes and another friend come bring the most amazing craft and science projects. I’ve even had friends ride along to doctor’s appointments to play with Patrick in the waiting room. Patrick is so happy to have the company.. And any opportunity to wipe down counters, fold some laundry, load a dishwasher without little helping hands helps me.
4. Help with the chores. That brings me to my next topic. Chores. I always have more things on my to do list than I have done. Especially since conversations with doctors, appointments, hands-on medical care, and quality time with Patrick trump household duties quite often.
My little sister is awesome about this. She often comes by in the afternoon after school or work and helps me put the toys back in the toybox, sweep, prep dinner, iron, etc. If Patrick wakes up while we’re working, she takes him to play and lets me finish.
When Patrick was coming home from the NICU, a “cleaning crew” from our church came and sanitized the house. And one sweet lady took about a dozen shirts from me, ironed them, and brought them back to put away. I’ve had people take home our laundry, wash, and return it. We’ve had neighbors water and mow our lawn, pick up our mail, bring in our garbage cans. And on and on.
It makes a home feel so peaceful when it is clean. And often, helping me clean is easier than helping with Patrick.
5. Help in medical moments. I have to give a special shout out to friends, neighbors, and family who have stepped up and learned to do things they never imagined they’d need. You have prepped TPN, given meds through a g-tube, changed countless central line dressings, restrained Patrick so I could change a button, clamped off broken lines, treated allergic reactions, caught vomit, changed diapers with our crazy diaper cream regimen, sat with a febrile little boy so I could pack a hospital bag, and on and on. And, in what is the one of the smallest and biggest things you do, you have carried Patrick’s backpack while he explored so we could sit down.
We are a part of a very, very lucky and small minority of special-needs, and especially short gut, parents who have not just one but several people we can call on in these moments. Because of you, we still make it to the temple sometimes, catch a hockey game, see a movie, and go on dates. You make it so he can go to Primary at church with the other children. You get me to the dentist. You let me nap.
5. Listen. You read my blog. You follow us on facebook. You help us troubleshoot. (Like the onesie pattern that Brian’s mom and I developed over the years to keep his line and button safe at night… or the countless little issues solved by brainstorming with other short gut families online.) You chat. You call. You stop and give me a hug and let me cry without saying anything at all.
6. Prayer. And, when you can do nothing more, you pray for us. I have felt us lifted up by your prayers. I have felt the peace of your prayers. And I have seen countless medical miracles because of your prayers. Thank you for thinking of us, praying for us, and keeping our names on prayer rolls and in prayer groups and flickering in the flame of sacred candles.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! How would we have made it this far without you?
And thank you for continuing to offer your help. I hope this brag list helps answer your question of how you can (or already do) help.