Monday, February 1, 2010

Sick without your mother

A phone call or a text, "Mom, I'm not feeling well. My throat is killing me, my stomach aches like crazy...I got hit in the head and I feel nauseous..." Does this resonate? It's flu season and even if it wasn't, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately, this is life! But, here in lies the challenge as a parent: They're at college or living on their own somewhere and you aren't there to evaluate the situation yourself.

So you drill them with questions: Do you have a fever? What hurts? Do you have a rash? Could it be something you ate? What are your symptoms? ...

If need be, you've convinced them to go to their school's clinic, their doctor, or the Emergency Room. Well, once there, things can get "interesting":

They've told you that's where they are, but guess what? There's no cell service in a hospital, you know that they headed there or were actually there, but after that, it's the great abyss. You might not hear anything for hours! As one girlfriend said to me, "I of course, was going to every dark corner in my mind, imagining the worst." All you want is to know how your kid is? What's the prognosis? Diagnosis? And the next steps?

They're also considered adults, 18 and over, so it's difficult to get any information. Here are some thoughts and suggestions that I've learned along the way. Of course nothing is fool proof and I'm sure you have some thoughts and ideas too.

* Get the name and phone number of their roommate, so if you need information about your kid, they are a good place to start.
* Suggest to your sick child that they A) tell someone they're going to the ER B) Ideally have someone take them and stay with them, at least until they're all squared away.
* Be sure to get the name of the hospital, clinic or doctor they're going to. (When you're in a different city, you have no idea where or who). Just in case you need to start sleuthing.
* If you're not getting any information, no communication with your kid, try calling the roommate or good friend that you HOPE went with them. Text them if all else fails.
* You don't have a phone number or email for a friend or roommate, but you have a first and last name: go to Facebook, go to "friends", go to "find friends," you can refine your search and add the college or state they're from and see if you can deduce which one of the names that matches is your child's friend. If you think you've got a match, then send them a message. Kids read their FB page, so they'll see it. Of course, all of this is if you don't have any contact info.
* Try calling the hospital, get connected to the ER, with luck you'll get a person on the phone that's a Mom. Pull the Mom-card. Tell them you're the Mom of someone who's there, you've heard nothing for 4 hours! You're concerned and would like to know that they're still alive. OK a tad dramatic, but you get the gist. You just may be pulling the Mom-card with a! She just may tell you something, gather information and call you back! It's worth a try.

If you want to be proactive: When your kid is filling out forms for college, there will be a place where they can give parents permission to receive grades, be informed about emergency-like situations... encourage your child to check the box "yes." That helps. Also, when visiting your kid and you're introduced to friends and roommates, write down names, phone numbers and/or emails. You never know when you might need them. (That contact information can come in handy for birthdays too, if you want to surprise your child with a cake or something and you need the help of their roomie.) Arm your kid with information. If they're allergic to any medications, be sure they have that information, otherwise they rely on you and in an emergency that's not the best. Besides, if you're like me, who can keep track of who and what allergies, especially if they're not written down???

Being sick without your Mom can be lousy and as a Mom, having your kid sick away from you arguably can be lousier!


Stephanie T-D from JLP said...

Beppie, These are great ideas. My friends niece has Chrones and recently got quite ill and ending up in the hospital where she is at school in VA. Problem was that parents are in CA. My friend ended up driving all night to get there before her sister was able to.

I am going to email this to her!

On the other hand, I ended up in the ER several times in college and DID NOT want my parents to know anything about it. It is a tricky balance.

Beppie said...

You're right...very tricky balance!

On another note, a girlfriend called and she called the school's clinic on behalf of her sick son (since he had already been to the clinic AND the ER) and was told, "sorry, we can't talk to you, unless your son calls and gives us permission to." Well, her son tried to do just that and the college clinic tried to discourage him from giving Mom access and told him he needed to take charge of his own health. He heard them, thought about it, and then went ahead and gave permission for Mom-access, but it sure made him think....understandably so.
A thought: empower your kid and suggest that when they go back for the second or third visit and they're not getting better, that they request a referral to a specialist or an intern or whatever physician is appropriate. Sometimes a "case manager" is necessary and since you're not there, that person should be a physician, don't you think?

Gren said...

Hi Beppie, this is a great entry - very helpful ideas that will stick with me. We have to become social media parents, almost virtual parents, which sounds slightly cold or distant, but in many ways is more endearing than "the good old days." Thanks! Gren.

Beppie said...

Virtual parenting, hmmmmmm....interesting. I guess so!

Gren said...

Virtual parenting, virtual next door neighbors, virtual confidants – we’ve gone from “pen pal parenting” when all we had were letters, to phone call parents, to now we have a full gamut of video, voice, photo mediums. Most exciting to me is that we’ve found the “one line communication.” In the “old” world, letters tended to be significant with a beginning and an end and a well formed center. One letter took us time to write, to plan out, with quite a few ending up in the trash. Phone conversations were typically longer, multi-topic, because you felt rude saying two words and then hanging up. But in real life, people often have one sentence conversations – the loft of a few words over the fence to the neighbor while mowing the lawn, the quick comment to the kid as they head off to school. So before Social Media, our non-present communications were more thought out, planned, organized, while our real world in the present communications were more spontaneous, more current, and ultimately more real. Today we’re having those very current, very real interactions more easily. Things aren’t so significant and planned – they’re more spontaneous and tactile. Some of my best conversations with my kids today in the virtual world have less than 20 words in them. I think this is going to allow us to stay much closer to our kids, certainly much closer than most people our age are with our parents. Or me with mine anyway. Thus, our ability to be “virtual parents” is enhanced – we can still be that “send them off to school with a kiss” parents even when they’re adults living in another part of the world.

Terry said...

OK you just completely freaked me out! I won't be able to handle this. My 16-year-old is home sick with the stomach flu. I thought about what I would do if he was in college as I helped him puke through the night. My mind goes to places when he is sleeping in the same house...I won't survive what you went through. How is your kid????????

Anonymous said...

I just Googled "sick without mom" because I lost my Grandma (who raised me) last week. I'm 26 and headed off to law school in the fall. I hadn't cried in the 3 days since she died, then suddenly thought "But what if I get sick?" and now I can't stop bawling. Not that she's actually DONE anything about my being sick in over a decade, but I'll really miss being able to say "Grandma, I don't feel well" and having her say "Oh no honey, what's wrong?"

Beppie said...

Dear Anonymous,
I want to reach through the computer and give you a hug! I'm SO sorry for your loss. And I understand completely about what you're saying and feeling! I lost my Mom 2 1/2 years ago and as the saying goes, "not a day goes by that I don't think of her." But judging by your comment, your grandmother lives on in you... thoughtful and caring!

Sofia said...

As a mom, we always worry about our kids. And I now worry much more because my kids are all grown up now, and they are all far away from me. I've also experienced an incident where my eldest daughter Kelly called me up and told me that she's badly sick. I honestly don't know what to do that time because she's miles away from me. But still I made an effort to go to her apartment, took her to the hospital and have an instant cash advance to pay for her hospital bills. Our child's health is far more important than distance and money.

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