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I didn’t expect to be writing a post like this for, well, never. I never thought I’d have to write something like this, but here I am. The good news is that all is getting better. I’m back home, resuming married life and fitness (2 weeks with minimal exercise and eating salads every day for lunch from the hospital cafeteria. Yuck!) and things are getting back to normal. I just aged like another five years, but whatever. I’m about to turn 20 and I feel like I’m already 27. I hear 20 and go, “that’s so young!”
Anyway, here are some things I’ve learned in the past two weeks of going to the hospital every day and watching my mom slowly get better.
#1: Take care of yourself! My aunt taught me this. She and my uncle were the first to arrive at the hospital and this is basically the same thing he went through almost two years ago, so she’s been there. You need to take care of yourself. This also means treating yourself. If a family member is in the hospital, sure you need to be there for them, and it’s scary as fuck, but you are still important. I tried to keep working out and I did a fair amount. I still ate, maybe not enough but my choices were often Wendy’s and hospital cafeteria. I did eat more cookies and ice cream than I probably should have, but I deserved those treats. I didn’t get to take care of myself as much as I’d have liked, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Get the sleep you need! Stay up watching your late night TV. My aunt loaned me this awesome show that unfortunately ended 10 years ago called Dead Like Me and it’s just been a good thing to watch to take a break from all this craziness. The hospital will call if they need you, and your family member isn’t going anywhere. Just because they’re sick doesn’t mean you need to be. You still come first. If anyone gets pissed at you for that tell them to fuck off (politely of course).
#2: Along with taking care of yourself, you are not responsible for anyone else but yourself. I did have to step in and take care of some paperwork and finances for my mom while she was still in her coma, but once she was awake and lucid again she took over. It is not your job to find a babysitter for your younger sibling. It is not your job to figure out the finances of the person in the hospital. It’s a nice thing to do, yes, but you are not obligated to do it. If it’s your kid it’s your responsibility. If it’s your parent then not really. This is more of a case-by-case thing, but seriously, you come first. If they ask you to take care of something then do it if you can. I couldn’t take my cat to my apartment, but I asked a friend to watch her. My mom had my brother go to stay with her parents in Montana, but she asked me to do the computer stuff for her since she can’t and to take him to the airport.
#3: Wait on the bills. Ok, this sounds a little scary, and if you’re not in the USA then don’t worry about this one because you probably have amazing universal health care and stuff. But if you are in the USA, I’m sorry. Insurance takes a little while to kick in. I’ve got a rough estimate of my mom’s hospital bills and it’s about three quarters of a million dollars so far. Yeah, I can’t afford college let alone her hospital bills. The good news is that insurance should cover most of it. We might have to pay a copay but it should be reasonable. When you get a bill don’t stress out because it probably won’t have taken the insurance covered part out yet and show you that scary ass huge number. Just put it away, don’t worry about it. You’ll deal with it later. And you will, don’t go into debt or anything, just don’t freak out. Wait for insurance to cover it.
#4: some medical related things. I may not be going into medicine but spending two weeks in the hospital teaches you a lot. First, when the alarm goes off on their machine that’s measuring all of the heart stuff don’t freak out unless the person has stopped responding to you and the machine shows flat lines. The alarms go off all the time for little things that aren’t life threatening. You can silence them by pressing the “silence” button on the screen. A good heart rate is under 100. Oxygen levels are good 90 and up. Getting under may require more oxygen to be given. For blood pressure, anything under 120/80 is good. It took me a long time to figure out those numbers.*
So to recap: Take care of yourself, you’re only responsible for yourself (case-by-case), don’t freak out about your cray cray bills, and not all alarms are super scary.
* I am not a doctor, this is all stuff I’ve learned through observation and nurses and doctors telling me things.