April 10, 2009,
A.T. asks from Puyallup, WA on April 07, 2009
Friend's Baby in ICU- How Do I Best Support Her?
My girlfriend just had baby #3 on Sunday. He is having some complications and they are meeting with the surgeons tomorrow. I have the start of a cold, possibly allergies. As much as I want to be there to support her and see the baby(she put me on her list to have access to go see the baby), I don't want to put the baby at a higher risk with my germs. How do I be supportive from afar when I know she needs me there? I appreciate your input, thanks!
Z.A. answers from Seattle on April 07, 2009
Some general ideas:
- Phoning (even if she can't answer, if she checks her messages the "Heya Love, I was just thinking of you and wishing I didn't have this stupid cold so I could be there with you. Call me if you have the time and energy. Otherwise, know I love you!!!")
- Call the NICU/PICU and ask one of the nurses to see what/if you can send anything
- Sending Lunch (the hosp will have a list of restraunts that deliver to the hosp)
- Sending Flowers (ummm...these aren't allowed in many NICU's/PICU's...but if you send them to her home, she'll get the thought without the hassle of having to drive them home)
- Volunteering to pick up clothes/toiletries and drop them off with reception so you don't share your cold.
Depending on your level of friendship
- If you don't know already: Talk with her or her relatives to find out if this is going to be a huge financial burden for your friend. If so, you might organize a drive/event/bakesale/what-have-you with her or your church/school/neighborhood etc. to help them cover expenses. Even with insurance (especially so with some, not so much with others) NICU & Surgeries can run into thousands of dollars. If either is having to take time off work it can make is worse. While most people would never want to take a check from one person, having it be a community outpouring changes the ball-game.
Caveat for most of the above:
I'm one of those people who likes to be left alone at time of crisis. Loved from afar. I like to know that people are thinking of me...but I quite frankly don't want to be bothered by them when I'm busy trying to keep from losing my mind. When i have the time, I call and unload on those few unfortunates I turn to on a regular basis to vent/cry/get distracted by/bounce ideas off of.
Some people are like me. Others crave the opposite and feel abandoned/alone when friends keep their distance. If you haven't been with this friend through a crisis before, you might want to start out slowly and gauge their reactions.
Bless you for your kindness, and KUDOS!!!! to you for not taking your cold to the NICU/PICU. I wish more people had your common sense.
4 moms found this helpful
J.C. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
My son was premature and spent his first month in the NICU. He was our first, so it was a bit easier to manage, but many families there had older children and it was very tough on them.
You are right to stay away from the baby until you are fully healthy (I'm also a nurse!) so my advice would be to try and help her manage her outside life while her son is in the hospital. Insist if you have to! We are sometimes odd creatures and feel bad or guilty about accepting help from others. She will appreciate this more than you can imagine.
Offer to run errands, do her grocery shopping, if her other kids have activities that they need to be taken to, be their chauffer. Visit HER in the hospital lounge, bring her good coffee or tea, lunch or dinner, anything to give her a break from hospital food. Ask if the older kids can come spend the night at your house and/or include them in your Easter plans. Your friend probably doesn't have time to do Easter baskets or Easter egg hunts right now.
Your friend needs to be able to fully concentrate on her son, but it's really hard when you have other children. You want to be at the hospital ALL of the time, but you don't want to neglect your older children.
My prayers go out to your friend and her family. I hope that her son is healthy and home very soon.
2 moms found this helpful
J.H. answers from El Paso on April 08, 2009
You've gotten some great advice so far. The thing that helped me the most when my son was in the ICU after he was born & needed heart surgery was having meals made so I didn't have to take the time to cook or eat out all the time. There's just something nice about a home-cooked dinner after a stressful day. Or even making sandwiches or something she can snack on at the hospital since the cafeteria food usually sucks.
The calls are nice but make sure she know you don't expect her to call you back. We got tons of calls/e-mails from family & friends but couldn't call back since they didn't allow cell phones in the ICU & we were too drained emotionally from relaying the same story over & over. The hospital social worker can help tell her about setting up a Care Page online so she can update it so that people can check there instead of having to call all the time. That really helped us & it gave me an outlet to vent. If you'd like more info for her, let me know.
In short, just let her know you're there for her & ask if there's anything in particular she's having trouble with or needs. You're a great friend for asking about how to best help her! Tell her that there is a whole online community thinking about her & wishing her & her child well.
1 mom found this helpful
N.Z. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
Let her know your fears about the germs. Then offer to cook, help out at home, whatever it takes to make things easier for her to be with her baby. She'll know you care.
1 mom found this helpful
J.W. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
This is her third baby, this Momma needs a few sets of extra hands at this time in her life, even if her new baby was trouble free. By all means, make meals and deliver them. Make things ahead and freeze them for her, so when she wants to put the meal on the table she can pull it out of the frig or freezer to cook and serve.
Help with the laundry. Take her other two kids to a movie, rent a movie to show at your house to entertain her older kids and yours. Make sure that things are ready for her to bring baby home. Ask if there's anything you can get ready for her.
Go get her a bubble bath, a nice shampoo and conditioner, body lotion... to help her unwind and be ready for the next day's list of things to be done. Most hospitals have a chair side massage vendor, get her a gift certificate for one. It will help her relax and let go of some of her tension.
She's spending her days at the hospital, record her older kids on your cellphone and send it to her, be it a video or multiple pictures. So she can see that they're okay. A journal and a nice pen for her to write down her thoughts as she watches over her baby. It will give her place to vent and reflect.
I would not go to the NICU with any type of sniffle, sneeze, cough, ache or pain. These little people are fighting for their lives in a sterile environment, adding adult size viruses is too much for them. Besides, with all the nurses, docs, immediate family members.. that room gets pretty crowded.
Above all, don't forget Dad. Dad is going thru many of the same emotions and tensions that Mom is. Dad's believe they can and should keep harm away from their family and this was beyond his control. Dad's need some TLC as well. So the meals, the babysitting, kid activities will be quite helpful, useful for him. But he also needs an ear, a shoulder, a friend... and as much as you may think you can do this, it really helps if he can vent and talk with a man-friend. If this is your husband, then arrange for them to have some one on one time without the kids and you around.
This is a difficult time for them, their emotions are all over the scale. Thank you for being a great friend to this family.
1 mom found this helpful
T.R. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
I didn't see this suggested on my quick scan through the answers so I thought I'd share my 2 cents.
I had a friend (actually just an acquaintance) who's little one was going through chemo. I emailed those I knew in our networks and those that didn't know her at all, and asked them if they would be willing to contribute to a housekeeping fund. We raised over $500! It was amazing how many people pitched in. It made a big difference. Far beyond what I could do on my own.
You could also organize an every-other-night delivery of food to their home using her and your friends, family, etc.
Anything you do will be appreciated, but if you can be an organizer of many, you will have a greater impact than what you could do alone.
Best wishes to your friend, and to you.
1 mom found this helpful
S.S. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
You have gotten some great advice and I can only reiterate things. My youngest daughter was born 3-1/2 months early and spent the first 3-1/2 months of her life in the NICU. I had people call, email, make food, and a few came up to visit. Just making it known that you are there her for her emotionally is huge. Even I didn't go up to see my daughter if I was even remotely sick and would wear a mask for a while afterwards. They are fragile, precious beings that need to be protected and I'm sure your friend knows that. Let her talk to you about the hard stuff (and it's HARD), her fears, the joys, whatever - it's important and sometimes you may not want to hear it, but if you can, please do.
Best of wishes.
J.C. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
Oh bless you both for wanting to really help and for NOT sharing germs --- what a good friend you are, A.--
. Thirty-three years ago my boy was in an ICU --- ( he's fine- God be praised) -- and here's some ideas:
1. Do something nice for her older 2 --- send over a pizza if they like that - or send in some not-too-sweet treats or some little but fun toys
2 Make something wonderful for her to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner -- you can make something that has to be cooked- so wont' carry any germs --
3 Take something to the hospital staff that are caring for her and the baby--- these people become instant angels and to help her care for them would be so kind
4. if you know what her tastes are- a music cd??? ( I don't '''' speak'' i-pods, sorry- dont understand em)
5. Tell her daily that just as this week we ''walk'' with
God in His great gift to us --- so you walk in prayer with her as she moves - one step at a time.
I'll certainly '' put you and yours'' on my prayer list.
aka- old Mom
W.C. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
Babysit her other children, fix dinners for her, clean her house. Make sure the only thing that she has to do is love her family. You are smart to realize that visiting the ICU at this time is not the best thing to do. Supporting her in these other ways are helpful too.
PS, stay away from your friend, so that she doesn't catch your cold and later share the cold with the baby.
T.S. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
My son was in the NICU for a week when he was born. If anyone thought that they were coming down with something, they were just given a surgical mask to wear. I would ask your friend how she feels about it. Just tell her that you are not feeling 100% and are not sure if you are coming down with something or if it is allergies. See what she says. It is ultimately hers and the docs decision as to who goes to see her baby. Offer to wear the surgical mask and the doc would prob be ok with it too. If they don't want you in there, I found that it was really great when my friends brought meals to my family that was still staying at home so I didn't have to worry about cooking. You can also offer to sit in the hospital waiting area to keep her company. Also, it's hard for Mom to get away from her NICU baby without feeling guilty. Maybe you can take her away for even a half an hour to have lunch or coffee. You don't need to stray too far from the hospital just in case, but I'm sure she could really use a break (as I did). I hope this helps to hear from someone who's been on the mommy side of things in the NICU. Good luck and she'll be in our prayers.
M.L. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
Let her know that you may have a cold and don't want to take a chance of infecting the new baby until you know if it's a cold or allergies. Then maybe offer to do some chores at her house or cook a couple meals for the rest of her family. Maybe watch the two older kids while she and her husband spend some time at the hospital with the new baby. Then you're still being very supportive without taking a chance on making the new baby sick. Ask her also how you can be most supportive and what you can do to help while they're spending time at the hospital.
You might also offer to take the older two to an egg hunt this weekend if possible. That will give them some extra attention that they may need, but also a fun distraction for them away from the hospital. You can check rubyslipperguide.com, redtricycle.com, parentmap.com, and the local newspaper for ideas. I know there's an egg hunt in Sumner on Saturday morning at 9, but I don't know where.
J.D. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
I'm sure there are many ways you can help and support your friend without exposing the baby to your cold. Providing childcare or meals for her family and/or grocery shopping are a few ideas that come to mind. She is lucky to have such a concerned and considerate friend!
S.J. answers from Eugene on April 08, 2009
My son was in the NICU for almost a month and the absolute best thing people did for us was to bring food to our house so when we got home from visiting the baby at the hospital we didn't have to worry about what we were going to eat.
L.R. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
In the past when I needed to say I care across the miles
I contacted the hospital gift shop, and they can do amazing
things with teddy bears, plants, etc..and they will put what
ever you want on your card, then delivery it for you. But
while the baby is in ICU, the gift shop can recommend what
is best. In the meantime call her, and make yourself available if needed in other ways that will take any stress
off of her Just an idea! Much Blessings
M.M. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
Call her and talk to her. Ask her what she needs. Let her know why you can't be there in person.
J.S. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
A. - When my first baby was in NICU we weren't allowed to have any visitors except immediate family who were not sick. I would have loved if my friends and family had called me to check in. I wanted someone to care that after watching my daughter sleep for an hour she twitched and smiled a little, or squeezed my finger, or whatever thing it was that would be inconsequential to anyone else but was my whole world at that moment.
Try to imagine being inside the same room and halls all day and put yourself in her shoes just as best as possible while you talk to her, and then just be available to listen and praise, cry, or pray with her - whatever your friend needs at that time. She won't say it, but will appreciate you not coming while you're ill. And she will REALLY appreciate someone who is so obviously remembering her through out the day. If you text, you could just have a phrase or some special words you send her when you think of her. She doesn't need to respond, just receive the message.
L.S. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
It's great that you are such good friends to ask this question. As for the baby, I would see if you would be able to see the baby with a mask over your mouth. Other than that I would bring your friend's family dinner (just make extra of what you are having), offer to watch her children while her husband and her visit the baby etc. It is hard having a child in the hospital and children at home. Hopefully this won't have to go on for too long.
E.K. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
I'd probably focus my attention on the other 2 kids and their needs. Not knowing thier ages, but just having someone to do all the running, school, groceries, dinner, ect... while she's with her new little one would probably be a great help.
J.L. answers from Corvallis on April 08, 2009
Do what you can for her home life. Provide meals, offer to watch the other children, offer to help clean her house, groceries, etc. There are many things that she needs help with at home while she is taking care of this little one. You are still showing your support, even if you are not physically up there with her, and she will LOVE all the help she can get. This will free up dad to be up there too!! Oh, and dont take NO for an answer.
S.S. answers from Richland on April 08, 2009
Call her on the phone and let her know you don't want the baby to be exposed to your germs, but you are available to talk on the phone. Perhaps start a prayer circle for her and the baby.
L.U. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
A. - I haven't taken time to look through and see what everyone else said, so I may be repeating some thoughts.
When my son was 3 weeks old we spent 7 weeks in the NICU at Children's Hospital. Here are some things that I really loved.
1. Food, home cooked. I did not leave the hospital for 5 weeks, and the food there is good, but after a while it is really boring. I can't tell you how nice it was when someone brought me home cooked dinners.
2. Books, Magazines, crosswords....If she enjoys those things, it was nice to have something to distract myself with.
4. It depends on how long she is going to be there....I got bath things (shampoo, soap, a RAZOR!, tweezers ect). Also, they have a small area for you to do your laundry, but I had a few friends who brought my clothes home and did a load of wash, God bless them.
5. If you are religious, Pray. I truly believe that God made my son well, not just because I begged, but because there were thousands of people praying for him (even the Pope!). Tell the church to pray for her, family, friends. The more voices the better.
6. DO NOT GO AND SEE HER NEWBORN UNTIL YOU ARE WELL! If you are going to bring those things to her you want to be sure that you just drop them off if you are sick, or even have your husband drop them off to her. You do not want her to get sick, and you definitely do not want to get the newborn sick. I know it is hard, but your friend will understand and she will appreciate it.
When I was in the hospital it was truly a blessing to have my friends come and love me, support me, hold me when I sobbed, and "watch" my son so I could eat, bathe, and use the bathroom. Hold your friends hand, love her, and just let her know that you are there for her....That's what she needs more than anything.
Best of luck to the baby, L.
P.C. answers from Seattle on April 10, 2009
please, tell your friend your concern for the safety of your friends babies and the other preemies in the ICU don't go in there sick. Babies who are compromised healthfully or who are early are at a much higher risk og getting your cold and it developing into something worse. Be supportive to your friend by being there for her and running errands for her and maybe taking charge of her other children for a little while, that would be a great help to her family. You are all in my prayers.
S.H. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
My best friend's two year old just had open heart surgery last month. We talked about his first surgery in the weeks leading up to the surgery and how a former friend had said she wanted to be there but didn't even call to see how they were doing and seemed to not care when my friend got home a month later.
If you are ill and it makes you uncomfortable, don't go and see her for baby's sake. But, by all means, do call daily and maybe do somethings to help support her/her family at home. I was able to bring food to my BF's husband and two other sons and even send coffee gift cards, note/support cards to her and send flowers to her home the day she brought him home from the hospital. I also drove her 3yo son with Autism to a few of his physical/ocupational/speech therapies so she had one less thing to worry about.
I was also sick when I helped my BF take her son to Children's for his Cath procedure before his surgery and I wore a mask and practiced extreme hand washing all day. My hands were very dry at the end of the day, but it was worth it to be there for both of them.
You can see both your friend and baby if you follow some precautions. 1)take the necessary medicaitons for whatever it is that you have 2)when you go to see them, wear a surgical mask over your mouth and nose 3)wash your hands frequently while there... especially if you've touched your face... and if it makes you uncomfortable to hold/touch baby even while following those precautions, she will understand that you love them and don't want to be responsible for anything compicating his situation, so you will just adore him from a short distance. I think she'll just be glad to have you there with her, supporting her.
Good luck and I pray he comes through ok and that you feel more able to be there for your friend.
A.H. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
Hello! I've read some of the answers and I just wanted to clear something up - I am a NICU nurse and the policy is that you are NOT ALLOWED into the NICU if you have ANY cold symptoms (even if they "might" be allergies - we can't risk it!). A mask is not enough, and not permitted to circumvent the infection control procedures. I would even be careful around your friend - if it is a cold, you don't want to infect her. If she gets sick, as much as we hate it, she will also not be allowed in. It's just what is best for her baby and for all of the other babies (and nurses - if we get sick, we can't work! a cold can get pretty expensive for us!). I just wanted to make this policy clear since many people seemed to think it wouldn't be a big deal, and that you could just wear a mask. :)
I second the recommendations of food and offering help with household work and whatnot!
I hope everything goes well with your friend's baby! I will keep her in my thoughts! What hospital is she at?
C.S. answers from Seattle on April 08, 2009
Wash your hands and wear a mask! Go see the baby! The hospital near me actually has paper masks near all entrances and near most department entrances. If your hospital doesn't - ask a nurse! They are usually more than happy to provide one! Hospitals/Nurses like to keep germs from spreading! If you still feel uncomfortable about going - just let your friend know you are afraid you are sick and do not want to rick infecting them or their baby! I am sure she will understand! :)
T.N. answers from Portland on April 08, 2009
If I were you, I would best support her by offering to mind her other two kids if you feel that it is just allergies, not surprising this time of year. I would be supportive with a listening ear, research something for her if she wants to know more about something, so she doesn't have to search, but can have printed access to information you have found that she can read when she has a moment. Lastly the one thing you can do for her that would probably help the most is to prepare a few freezable meals she can just reheat for herself and her family.
Of course, if you are so inclined you can also tell her than you will pray for her and her family. You could start a prayer group or ask for support from her local church.
Best of luck to your friend and her new baby.
T. Nelson CD (DONA)