Helps in Crisis

One of the questions I’ve received the most during the last month and a half has been, “How can I help?” In an effort to cast a broad thank you and to provide some ideas for others – and for myself –  for the next time a crisis hits anyone we know, I want to share some of the things people have done to bless us that have been most helpful.

  • Being a first responder when the crisis hit. This one may seem obvious, but it may truly have made the difference between Matt’s life and death. His cousin Mechell and her husband came out of their room and over to ours when I made a random call for help in the hotel hallway, and she performed CPR. Matt’s mom came immediately and took over care for our kids when I left in the ambulance. His aunts and uncle met me at the hospital soon after we arrived in the ambulance. You never know when it might be helpful to be trained in CPR. And I want to be a person who, in an emergency, can be counted on to come right away.
  • People sitting with me at the hospital in those first hours and days. It was encouraging not to be alone during those uncertain times.
  • Friends with medical backgrounds offering information and answering my questions. Of course Matt’s doctors and nurses were helpful, but it was reassuring to have counsel from people we already knew and trusted.
  • Close friends and family offering to come out to New York, and, once home, to Missouri to be with us and help however needed. It was great to know I had some options for company and childcare, as needed, and it ended up being super helpful to have some extra people come for a few days, both in New York and once we were back in Missouri.

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  • People handing me cash. Obviously we incurred some unexpected expenses, and it was helpful to have others carrying that burden with us. Additionally, I don’t know if this is true universally, but at the hospitals at which we spent time, the cafeterias didn’t accept credit cards, and I’d incur $5 in fees each time I used the ATM. Having additional cash on hand, especially in those hospital days, was helpful.
  • Sending encouraging text messages and e-mails, especially those filled with Scripture and prayers – and not being offended if I didn’t respond right away (or at all). It was so encouraging knowing others were standing with us in prayer and “hearing” their prayers specifically. And in text message and e-mail form, I could read them and respond whenever I had free moments. I wasn’t always able to respond right away – or even keep track of whether I’d responded or not and whether I needed to come back and reply – but I was always encouraged by those messages.
  • Quick responses to my SOS texts and calls when I was feeling overwhelmed or had questions. There were a couple times during Matt’s hospital stay when I felt especially anxious or discouraged and reached out to friends and family, and their immediate responses were so encouraging to me.
  • Offering to visit but understanding when we said “no.” While it was so encouraging to me to have others with me during so many of the initial hours in the hospital, once Matt woke up, he was tired and sore and needed time to take in the reality of what had happened to him, and we needed some time together just the two of us. We needed the space to make our own decisions about what would be helpful in those days, and that sometimes meant saying “no” to people we would have loved to have seen in other circumstances.

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  • Bringing food to me in the hospital. Sometimes hospital food gets old, and it was such a blessing that as I was figuring out cafeteria schedules and as we spent an entire weekend with the specials being hamburger and cheeseburger, people would offer to bring me outside food.
  • Childcare and transportation in NY. People took care of our kids, brought them to me in the hospital, reassured them in their sadness, soothed them back to sleep when they woke in the night, took them on adventures, and generally loved them.

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  • Coming out to NY to help us drive home (and people contributing to our church’s fellowship fund in order to make that possible). With Matt prohibited from driving and with limited energy to interact with our kids, there’s no way we could have made the drive back ourselves.

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  • Cleaning our house and stocking it with groceries for us upon our return. When we left, our house looked fairly disastrous, as we’d had less than 24 hours to prepare for travel. When we returned, it was clean. The laundry had been done. The dishes had been taken care of. Friends also brought us fresh groceries to get us through the first days home until I could get to the grocery store. Life in those first few days was so chaotic that it was a relief not to have to address all of that.
  • Bringing us meals when we got home, especially those that conformed well to our new diet. We had a lot of doctor appointments initially, and Matt was still wiped out, and it was so helpful for me not to have to prepare a meal every single night. It was especially helpful when people took into account our new diet and prepared meals accordingly, bringing meals low in sodium and cholesterol, filled with nutritious vegetables and whole grains, and/or accompanied by copious amounts of fruit.
  • Being available for random things – like fixing our kitchen sink faucet. Just before we’d left town, Matt and I chose a new faucet for our kitchen sink, as the old one was falling apart, and Matt had planned to install it soon thereafter but obviously was prevented from doing so. A friend from our missional community group came over and took care of it for us.
  • Sending snail mail cards. Mail – and knowing others love you and are thinking of you – is always encouraging!

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  • Sending small gifts for our kidsIt was great for them to have some new entertainment for the drive home from New York and once we arrived back in Missouri.
  • Childcare help once we were back in Missouri. Now that we’re home, life is increasingly approaching a new normal, but Matt’s capacity is still diminished, and he also has a number of appointments he wouldn’t usually have, meaning my time to take care of things like paying bills, making meal plans and grocery lists, and responding to e-mails, not to mention sorting through medical bills, has been limited. Several friends have taken my kids for walks or come over for a couple hours and entertained them, and that’s been tremendously helpful.
  • Allowing me to be honest regarding offers to help. Some things really are helpful for us, and others aren’t. For example, some of my co-workers offered to send some take-out meals from local restaurants…but so much carry-out food is filled with everything we’re trying to avoid in our diet right now, and it just wouldn’t be helpful for us to have an abundance of that at this time…but the gift cards to the local vegetarian restaurant and grocery stores with good selections of healthy foods that they ended up sending? Those have been super helpful!
  • Recognizing that even after the immediate crisis has passed, everything is still in flux. We’re not back to “normal,” and we never will be back to the “normal” in which we lived before Matt’s heart attack. His energy level is still low. We’re adjusting our diet fairly radically. Time for Matt to exercise is no longer an optional part of our schedule. Even though we’re 6 weeks post-heart-attack, it has been really helpful still to be receiving a few offers for help with childcare or meals or other practical things, as well as e-mails and texts from people who continue to check in to ask how we’re doing.

For everyone who has done anything on this list – and there are SO many of you – thank you. We wouldn’t be recovering so well without you. I pray that all of our crises are few and far between, but next time one hits anyone in our circle, I hope that I can put some of these helps into action and be as much of a blessing to others as people have been to us in these last weeks. Thank you.

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