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Is there anything I can do?

'Let me know if there's anything I can do'.

I've said it in the past, and we've heard variations of it many times over the past couple of years. Often it's almost an automatic response to having a friend in need, when we feel a bit helpless and just want to express that we wish we could make things different with a magic wand.

However, as more and more people who find themselves in truly difficult situations realise, this sentiment carries its own burdens!

Whilst this is always meant with kindness and sincerity, it puts the effort onto the person in need. Having to mentally break down all the things that you need to do, then work out which of those tasks certain people could hypothetically help with, then explain the wheres, whens and hows, replying to messages and liaising with different people often means you end up with more on your plate than the original chore!

As well as the tremendous guilt that comes with actually asking a friend to do your menial tasks, knowing you'll probably never be able to return the favour.

Having recently spent a month in hospital, and speaking to many other 'medical parents', I thought I'd just give all the kind souls out there some ideas on how to help a friend who is unwell, or who has an ill child. These are just my opinions and experiences, based on how wrong I have got it in the past, and what a perfect example some of our friends have been.

What to bring/ send (or not!)

Flowers. Whilst flowers are lovely to have around, in reality, what you're giving is the extra work of digging out a vase, trimming, arranging, disposing of waste and finding a space for the lovely flowers- which are often not allowed in hospital these days by the way! Save them for when they get home and settled back into some normality.

Food: Eating becomes an extra chore on the to do list when you're in hospital or full time caring, and often goes to the bottom of the list. If you live near by and can offer to bring a meal round, (something that only needs heating up, nothing adding to it) it is a huge help. Take the thinking away and say 'I'm cooking you two dinners, which nights work best?'

Yourself: Seeing friends and family is so important, but make sure if you are going to someone's house (or hospital room) you are not expecting to be made drinks, fed, entertained or sometimes even spoken to! Often energy levels are almost non existent, and we are just happy you're here even if we feel like terrible company.

If you live near their home and are a close friend, tell them you're going to run the hoover round, change the beds, or do the washing up. Our friends were on a dog walking roster which was a huge relief knowing he was being cared for.

Ideas on what to bring to hospital for a long stay:

Snacks! (But check first! We have more than once ended up with sacks full of snacks that no-one particularly eats!).

Something to make the room smell nice, essential oil, a moisturiser or 'fancy' hand sanitiser.

A blanket, pretty throw, electric candle, slipper socks. Lend a gameboy, nintendo or mini bluetooth speaker (if they have their own room).

Useful presents for a child in hospital- something they can look at without touching like a light, balloon, or high contrast book or poster.

From afar:

It can feel so hard when a friend is struggling and you're far away. Two of my closest friends live in Australia, and while they haven't been able to be here, they have consistently messaged me just to check in, ask how Elodie is, or let me know they're still thinking of me, and this has been one of the most valuable gifts. (Particularly as I can talk to them in the ungodly hours of the morning!)

Send a card to the little one, little treat boxes (there are so many out there these days) like brownie or cookie boxes, or offer distraction like a silly quiz or videos telling them what you're up to with no expectation of a reply.

Maybe most importantly- when they get home from hospital is often when people need the most support. Suddenly there are no nurses or staff around to help or offer a listening ear or cup of tea, and usually it will still be several weeks before the family or patient is actually feeling somewhat normal.

For example.. I started writing this blog when we were still in hospital and we have been out for 6 weeks now! And I've only just got around to finishing it.

Most of all, thank you to all of you who want to help us or your own friends or family, even if you can't.

Just knowing you care and are thinking of us means an awful lot, even when we can't be of help in return.



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