1. Don't bring your three month old baby in to visit sick grammy/grampy/auntie. Now having children of my own, this one has bumped up to the top of my list. No, we don't have rules about it, but hospitals, and ICUs in particular, are festering cesspools of nasty germs that I wouldn't bring my children into unless I absolutely had to. Please, please, please, leave your poor little munchkin at home instead of bringing them into an ICU with three influenza patients and two patients with MRSA precautions!
2. Thanks for the treats, but how about some veggies? I am a complete sugar-aholic, and when I see an open box of chocolates in the nurse's station, it takes all my my willpower (I don't have much) for me to tear myself away. Even if I know that there are only orange nougats left. I don't like the fruity centers. So why do I still eat them?! Seriously, if you want to bring us a yummy treat, think green and crunchy. Our hips will thank you! And you know what? If you bring us nothing at all we will still take terrific care of your loved one.
3. Here's a sensitive one, I know . . . if you were supposed to sleep in the room with your sick loved one, there would be a second bed. Like the pullout couch in the pediatric wing or maternity floor. And I am a total hypocrite here, because if my spouse/kid were in the ICU you wouldn't be able to pry me away from the bedside with a crowbar. BUT, if something happens in the middle of the night, we need to be able to get at the patient without getting hung up on a big chair and extra sleeping person. Go home and get your rest, you'll be a lot better rested and able to help in the long run.
4. Make a telephone tree. Giving updates by telephone is tricky these days, given HIPAA privacy laws and all. Of course we will give you an update, if you are on "the list." But if you are the patient's cousin's mother-in-law, please don't get mad when I say to call a family member to find out how Suzy is doing. And if Suzy is your mother and you have eleven siblings, you need to pick just one of you to call and ask how she is. Then that one person calls two people, who each call two people and so on. That way you have all gotten an update without twelve phone calls taking me away from Suzy's bedside, where I need to be to take good care of her and get her home to you.
5. If I am already going to the kitchenette to get a fresh water for the patient, I don't mind getting you one too. If you start asking for crackers and peanut butter and milk three times a day, though, with an occasional coffee thrown in, it's time for you to hit the cafeteria.
6. You really do catch more flies with honey. And boy, have I learned this lesson myself thru various trips to the ER with Sophia. If you yell at me, threaten to take your loved one home, and look like you are going to hit me because you are frustrated, I'll call security. (Just to be clear, I have never done any of those things when in the ER with Sophia. Much as I have wanted to.) But if you stay calm and respectful, I would love to talk thru the issue, and will bend over backwards to fix it if I can. It's been two weeks and Suzy really misses her dog? Let's be sure his shots are up to date and I can arrange a visit. Suzy is crazy about the outdoors but has been on a ventilator for two months and is depressed from staring at the ceiling? We have portable ventilators, let's take a trip out to the courtyard. Honey, people, honey.
7. You know what really makes our day? When a patient we never thought would survive walks into our unit on his own two feet and says thank you. "I don't remember much of my stay here in the ICU, but my family said you worked really hard to keep me alive, and I just wanted to say thank you." I'll take that over chocolate (or veggies!) any day of the week.
Don't forget, February 1st is right around the corner, and one lucky follower is going to win this bag!