Everyone is scared when the phone rings in the middle of the night because the news is rarely good. Unfortunately those types of calls can come any time during the day. We got a call at 5:30pm yesterday that my father-in-law, who has been fighting an infection in the hospital, had a major heart attack. To make matters worse the hospital doctor reported that his kidneys are failing and that will lead to multiple organ failure. The recommendation was to get to California as soon as possible.
The call came early enough in the evening so that there were still options for a flight. The Internet makes these kinds of searches easy decreasing the frenzy just a bit. We had an hour to make a reservation, pack and get to the airport. These call no matter how expected are always a surprise. No matter how anticipated the shock of impeding death is mind boggling. The obvious is the loss of a family member, and now that so many of us don’t live near our families we’re forced to jump into action immediately. My sister-in-law is still trying to get a flight from Chicago to CA.
If you’ve been annointed the family communications director you’re also responsible for keeping up with the doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel. The trick is to find some way to still deal with your own relationship to your loved one, not an easy task. Then comes the dilemma of whether to leave the hospital or stay; for that rely on the hospital staff and make sure they have all your contact numbers in case there is a turn for the worse. Always rely on your gut instincts. I know most of us are not medical professionals, but if you have a sense following that instinct.
Rally support! Make sure someone is given the task of calling the people who are in the status of need-to-know. This morning I’ll call some people to let them know about what’s happening because those who support us can only do so if they know we need them. Don’t worry about keeping up a good front, be authentic. If you need time to breathe and let out a few tears, take the time and give yourself that space. It will make the rest of the responsibilities more manageable. Your human and you need to remember that when the phone rings with bad news you will react as a human, full of emotion, confusion, and enough adrenaline to kill an elephant.
Be kind to yourself and let others help and I hope you never have to be the one to “get the call”.