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4 Ways to Help a Friend in the Midst of a Medical Crisis

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We’ve all felt inadequate and even uncomfortable as we try to give support to a friend in need. We may have said some of the dreaded clichés, such as, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” or “You’re so strong! I wouldn’t be able to do what you do!” You don’t want to sound like you’re minimizing your friend’s pain, but you also can’t truly understand unless you’ve been there. 

I have been there, many times. My daughter, Abby, was born with an extremely rare syndrome called Cerebrocostomandibular syndrome, which affects her airway and lung development. At age 5, she has had 15 surgeries with at least 30 more to go. We’ve been in and out of the hospital for surgeries and illnesses more times than I can count at this point. 

In the last five years, we’ve had so many people do amazing things for our family. I wanted to share with you just a few of my favorites.

1. Be intentional with your offers of help. Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can do anything,” just go ahead and give a day and time you’re going to bring a meal over. I don’t believe anyone’s going to turn down a home-cooked meal! Arrange to clean your friend’s house — without judgment! Invite the kids over for a play date. I never quite got the hang of asking for help, but I was so appreciative to the ones who didn’t wait to be asked.

2. Send gas cards and care packages. If your friend is traveling to a hospital, gas bills add up quickly. Practical gifts like gas or restaurant cards are really nice and don’t take up space in a tiny hospital room. Some hospitals also have gift cards for the cafeteria and coffee shops. 

Care packages are fabulous, too. Include lots of consumable gifts like on-the-go snacks, microwavable meals that can be heated up at the hospital, hand sanitizer, quarters for the snack machine, a bottle of water, a pen or maybe some treats for the person in the hospital — but find out what is allowed first! There’s nothing like sending snacks, only to find out the person can’t have them! 

3. Buy hospital parking passes. Most big hospitals require a fee for parking, but a lot of them sell parking coupons at a reduced rate. Purchase some of these parking passes for a friend who is going to be traveling back and forth often. Make sure you find out about expiration dates and vehicle requirements. This is such a nice gesture. Parking, on top of gas, gets expensive when you do it often.

4. Visit. Whether the person is in the hospital or at home, visitors brighten everyone’s day. Call ahead to make sure a visit is OK, and be sure to ask if there are any restrictions. Many hospitals have minimum age requirements for visitors, and we also always asked that all visitors be healthy and have had the flu shot. Don’t be offended if your friend asks you to come a different day. It could be a busy day of tests at the hospital, or maybe the patient just isn’t feeling up to it that day.

But if you are able to visit, do it! Bring along a fun game or a little gift. Put meals in individual containers for your friend to heat up. Honestly, you don’t even need to bring anything but your company. Your visit will be just the medicine your friend needs.

No matter what you decide to do for your friend, just know that your love and support means the world to her. Even if she can’t express it, even if she never gets around to writing thank you notes, even if she lashes out at you from the stress of the situation — you caring enough to reach out is what is helping her get through this difficult time. 

Follow this journey on Life as a Leach.

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Originally published: November 25, 2015
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