Twelve days ago my husband had a medical emergency, and while he does feel better now, he is still in the hospital hooked up to various medical things, waiting for more tests and next steps.
Any medical emergency is hard, and even harder in a pandemic. In our case, COVID-19 protocols kept us from seeing one another until Day 8. That’s when his hospital doctor temporarily designated me an “essential visitor” so he could talk with us both together.
During our days apart, my husband and I had been in touch daily by phone, and I could hear that he was feeling better. But what a relief it was to see him in person! Even though he was still recovering, even though I had to wear a mask the whole time, it was reassuring to see the light in his eyes when he saw me, to hear his voice without the static of the hospital phone, to see him laugh at a joke, to spend some precious time together.
But now we’re back to days apart for who knows how long. To limit the spread of the coronavirus especially in a hospital setting, we’ll bear with whatever restrictions are necessary. It’s difficult to be apart, and makes communicating with nurses and doctors more cumbersome, but we want to do whatever we can for the health and safety of patients, medical personnel, and all concerned.
At the same time, we need to do what we can to address our own situation. How do you care for a loved one in the hospital when you can’t be there? How do you care for yourself in a personal medical crisis in the midst of a pandemic? Here’s what’s helping us make it through, shared with my husband’s permission and with the prayer that our experience might help others with a loved one in the hospital during this time.
Six years ago when my husband had his cancer surgery, I was at his side at the hospital every day. I was there to talk with his nurses and doctors in person. But none of that has been possible this time around. Instead, I’ve been phoning a lot and waiting for phone calls back. To talk to a nurse, I’ve discovered the best time to call is late morning or late afternoon. To talk to a doctor, I need to wait for a call back, which may or may not be the following day.
To talk to my husband—he who has always said, “I don’t need a cell phone,” although I think he’s re-thinking that now!—I call directly to his nursing unit where the phone often rings 50-100 times before someone answers, then I’m transferred to his nursing team where the phone often rings another 50-100 times before someone answers, then my call is transferred to the portable phone which is taken to him. But sometimes the phone isn’t answered after 120 rings (yes, I counted before I gave up), and sometimes the portable phone isn’t charged up or has to be hunted down.
A friend suggested that I could get my husband a cell phone. Another friend offered to loan us a spare. But my husband was too exhausted even to try. “It takes all my energy just to know where I am,” he said. I could well understand that, in part because he was so sick, and also in part because he had moved from emergency to the medical unit, from Team 1 to Team 2, then back to Team 1, having his bed first in the hallway, then a room, then another room, and back to Team 2 again, with most of those moves happening at night when he was half asleep. I had a hard time keeping track of where he was too!
At long last though, he was moved to a room with a telephone that worked, so in the end all that moving was good for something as I was able to call his room directly. At least that’s been working well for the last few days, but last night my husband called to say he was being moved yet again! We dearly hope the phone will be working in his new room too, or it’s back to calling through the nurses’ station once more.
I put together a care package for my husband every day and drop it off at the hospital front desk, then call his nursing unit so they’ll know to pick it up and deliver it to his room. Even though I can’t be with him in person, a daily delivery is an expression of love that also provides some tangible care. I’m grateful that we live close enough to the hospital for me to go there every day.
Since my husband went to emergency without a bag, my first care package included what I thought were hospital essentials: toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, favourite socks, a bathrobe. The nurse in emergency suggested some change in case my husband wanted to buy something—I couldn’t think what he might buy in the hospital, but on her suggestion I added that too.
As my husband began to recover, I started including some of his favourite foods, although I checked first with the nurse about any dietary restrictions. Could he have my home-made oatmeal scones on his hospital diet? What about his favourite chocolate-covered almonds? Other non-food items soon followed: his watch, some light reading, a stylus for his ipod. I knew my husband was starting to feel more like himself when he asked me to bring his Greek New Testament and a bottle of Pepsi!
Keep Taking Care of Yourself
When you write a book on self-care, people expect you to be good at it. But just like everyone else, I’m still learning. Sometimes it helps to talk. Sometimes I need to be silent. Sometimes to cry. One afternoon I felt so agitated that I called a friend who let me pour out my anxieties. The day I finally got to see my husband, I couldn’t talk about it with the next two people who called me, so I didn’t mention it. I made curry with sweet rice just for myself, then could hardly eat it.
I cancelled appointments. Postponed writing assignments. The first Sunday my husband was in the hospital, I was scheduled to preach for our church, and my sermon was mainly finished before we went into crisis. So I sent it in as usual, but let someone else read it for the Zoom service since I felt too on edge to be there myself. Yesterday I joined the service again, but slipped out early.
In all of this, I realize that I am not alone. Family, friends, church, and people I hardly know have been so kind and caring. Many have offered their listening ears and praying hearts, phone calls and cards, emails and Facebook messages, time to go for a walk or for coffee. I can’t do all those things right now, but one day I will, and in the meantime I’m deeply grateful. A friend of a friend even sent me some smoked salmon, personally delivered by our mutual friend and thoughtfully put together with a Mexican rice mix and a can of corn so I wouldn’t even have to think about what to have for supper. Others have said, “If you need anything, just call.” Our caring community has been an essential part of these days, and will be there, I know, in the days ahead.
When my husband first went into emergency, these words came to me almost immediately: “Make haste to help him, O God.” Those words from Psalm 38:22 became my constant prayer, and soon I added to them. When my husband said he felt disoriented in the hospital, I prayed more specifically for his body and his mind. As our time apart took its toll, I prayed about that too.
Now this is the prayer that calms me down when I feel anxious, the prayer that helps me sleep at night. If you have a loved one in the hospital, I hope this prayer will help you too.
Into Your hands of Power, Presence, and Mercy,
I commit ______’s body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Make haste to help him/her, O God.
Into Your hands of Power, Presence, and Mercy,
I commit my body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Make haste to help me, O God.
God, please protect ______ in this ordeal.
Although I’m not able to be with him/her,
I know that you are there always.
And even if I were able to be there,
I can’t protect him/her the way you can.
You are the God of Power, Presence, and Mercy,
so please protect him/her,
and bring him/her back safely home to me.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: The words of Psalm 38:22 welled up in me from deep within, in the King James Version that I had memorized long ago. What words or phrases of Scripture have been embedded in you?
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30 thoughts on “Make Haste to Help Us, O God”
Dear April, my heart goes out to you both, along with my prayers for wisdom and healing, for patience with protocols and over-strained medical systems and resources, and above all, for profound solace. Those CARE packages must feel akin to manna. May God bless all the creative ways you’re moving in faith through crisis. Thank you for allowing us to stand alongside in prayer.
Thank you, Laurie, your comment and prayers mean a lot to me. Yesterday my husband said he would like a cinnamon bun, and it was so good to hear him say that since he had previously been struggling with a loss of appetite. So I baked cinnamon buns for the first time I ever, and they turned out beautifully. Manna indeed.
Ohhhh April, I am including you both in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your situation with us that you may be assured you are not alone in petitioning God on behalf of your husband and yourself. Hugs and prayers, Cheryl
It’s good to see you here, Cheryl, and we so appreciate your prayers. Being surrounded by a community of support is a huge blessing. Thank you.
April, thank you so much for sharing this burden with your blogger friends. I have found that the writing process helps me to deal with stress and provides me with some sense of order and meaning in the chaos. That is how the Psalmist dealt with his fears, and we are still benefitting from his songs, prayers and poetry, written during the highs and lows of his life. We will lift you both up to the hills where our help comes from. Be at peace!
For me also, writing is sometimes a way of making sense of life. At other times writing feels more like writing down something already written on my heart—at least that’s how the ending prayer came to me, first as a constant refrain of prayer that I repeated over and over, then written down to share with others who might be praying for loved ones in the hospital. Thank you for your prayers, Elfrieda.
Dear April and Gary,
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am so sorry to hear of Gary’s illness. You are both in my prayers. Your writing is helpful as my brother is having various, serious health crises.
Much love to you both in Christ Jesus, our Loving Lord,
Thank you for reaching out, Carol. I pray courage and healing for your brother also, and comfort for you in the family. Love and prayers, April
April, I have just shared this on Facebook where I have many praying friends. I remember your writing about the Psalms of lament in your Four Gifts book. Now you are asked to walk this difficult path. Know that many are praying for you. My prayer: that you will feel the everlasting arms upholding you and leading you both to victory and good health!
Thank you for sharing this post, Marian. I appreciate all of the prayers, and hope that our experience might encourage others dealing with health issues and hospitalization during the pandemic. And be assured that your prayer is already being answered as we feel those everlasting arms bearing us up.
Thank you for sharing this, April. I think the cruelty of Covid-19 forcing separations at times of health crises must be almost unbearable. I wish for you strength and continuing support from those closest to you.
I appreciate that, thank you, Sam. COVID-19 has certainly changed hospital policies and procedures, and it adds another layer of stress to an already stressful time. Loved ones often feel helpless in a health crisis, and feel that ever more keenly when they’re not even allowed to be at their loved one’s side.
Thank you April for these words. I so resonated with all you said, as my husband has just returned home from a week in the hospital, also an emergency admittance. Courage, dear sister.
Oh my, you know just how much courage it takes! Thank you for that good word. I’m glad that your husband has returned home and pray that he is continuing to recover well.
Dear April. We are so sorry to hear Gary is in the Hospital. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Give our love to Gary, and both of you will be in our prayers. Please keep in touch, and stay strong. Love Saeed & Fereshteh
Dear Saeed and Fereshteh – It is a great blessing to see you here! Thank you for your love and prayers. I know that Gary will be so encouraged to know that you left a comment. Love to you from both of us.
April, sorry to read of your trials and your husband’s emergency. We understand how emotionally on edge all of this puts you. I will be praying for you as well–my heart truly goes out to you. (Husband has had several surgeries in the past 2 years–nothing that sounds this serious–but I know how alone and lonely and emotional you can feel.) And the phone business! Ach what a mess. You surely have great patience.
Thank you, Melodie – I’m happy to report that the phone is working in my husband’s new hospital room, so we are grateful for that! When he first moved out of the overflow area in the hallway to his first hospital room, the phone in the room wasn’t working, and they weren’t able to get someone in to repair it due to COVID, so that’s another pandemic-related complication.
A beautiful reflection. I’m pray for both of you and will continue to do so.
We appreciate your prayers, Tony! I also wanted to tell you that I finally had a chance to pick up our mail, and found your wonderful new book waiting for me. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this April. I sincerely appreciated the practical advice of keep calling, keep caring, keep taking care of yourself, and keep praying. The prayer you offered for us is one I’m going to write on a spare page in my Bible.
Saying a prayer for you and your hubby as you navigate this season.
Thank you so much, Carmen. It feels like we’re navigating some rough waters just now, so we’re glad to be surrounded by many prayers. I also hope the prayer I offer might help and encourage others.
You and Gary are in my thoughts and prayers especially with the difficulties which Covid adds.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Peter. Your thoughts and prayers mean a lot to us!
You and Gary are in my heart and mind. Thankyou for writing out the prayer! You are both refugees in the palm of God’s hands.
Thanks, Maria. When I feel agitated and my mind starts running ahead to all of the what ifs, I stop to pray and remind myself that we are in God’s hands and can rest there. You express that beautifully.