As the mother of a child who spent many weeks in the hospital, carrying frequent flyer cards in the ER, OR, ICU, NICU, PICU and TICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, I want to pass along a bit of knowledge for those who are feeling a lack of direction about how to be a good friend/family member/support to someone who is also facing a child’s critical illness.
My son, Hoyte, was born in 2010 two months premature with a host of birth defects, needing emergency surgery and later suffering infections and complications that took us by surprise. We didn’t see any of it coming – our feet were knocked out from under us many times for several years.
Luckily, Hoyte just turned 3, and I am feeling somewhat normal again as he has gained strength through maturity and medical intervention. And so I can write bit by bit about what I wish I had known – and what I wish others had known.
While we were going through the most critical days we had unbelievable amounts of love, support, and prayer from our family and friends, and I have so much gratefulness in my heart for every word of care, every morsel of food and every whisper of prayer that helped my baby – and us – survive a times when the odds were against him.
But as the weeks and years went by, part of our journey was walking through the road of changing friendships. We encountered severe ups and downs for 2 straight years it seemed, and had some people close to us not really know how to respond. Fact is, we struggled, like so many of you have, with the lack of understanding with those who had never walked a similar road to us. Fact is, I know that no one really meant to hurt us, but hurt inevitably happened, leaving us feeling quite isolated at times.
As a result, we learned to turn mostly to each other and that very small number of close friends who could truly relate to what we were going through – and those are our closest friends to this day. In hindsight, I wish that I had been more honest, and so that is what I am offering you today.