The 5 Love Languages of CHD Families: Acts of Service
When a family member or friend receives a diagnosis that their child will be born with a heart defect, you may not know what to do. It’s easy to retreat because it might be uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s even more uncomfortable for us to ask for help. Here’s a list with some suggestions:
1. Offer to help take care of household things while they’re in the hospital with their warrior. Hospital stays can be lengthy and it’s overwhelming to think about childcare for the other children, pet sitting, or general house upkeep. Some families are lucky to have a network of people, but others might not have any support at all.
2. Help run errands. This doesn’t seem like it’s a big one, and you may be overwhelmed with your own errands, but consider this: some kids need to be in quarantine while awaiting surgery/recovering from surgery/are seriously immune-compromised, and parents can’t take them out in public. This isn’t just for days — it could be months, especially during flu season. It’s hard for heart parents to get out. Not to mention, many hearts kids have oxygen tanks or special strollers that are cumbersome. Likewise, with long hospital stays, you are basically living there and it’s hard to run out for an errand. A heart parent might desperately need some ibuprofen, but can’t muster the strength to leave their unstable warrior that day.
3. Visit us in the hospital. Many times our warrior might be immune-compromised and most hospitals have visiting restrictions in the ICU, but parents might need an outlet. Please know that we can’t commit to a long visit, but stop by and take a 15-minute walk around the block with us. We’ll be anxious to leave our warrior, but it would be nice to see a smile. (And right before you come, shoot us a quick text and ask if there’s anything we can bring. It could be a box of tampons or a couple breakfast tacos, but we will be ever so grateful.) BIG NOTE: WE LOVE YOU DEARLY, BUT PLEASE DON’T SHOW UP UNEXPECTEDLY. There are days we just won’t feel up for a visit. Hospital life is rough and please don’t be offended.
4. Help organize an event to celebrate our heart warrior. If our baby is diagnosed prenatally, maybe it could be a small baby shower or photo shoot. One of the most meaningful things our friends did was throw a big celebration for Eloise once her big second surgery was over. These kids are fighters and they deserve so much celebration.
5. Volunteer locally at the Ronald McDonald House or volunteer with heart organizations. Call your closest Ronald McDonald house and ask if you can provide a meal for families every once in a while. Get involved with local programs who help these families and kids. Talk to the social workers/community outreach at your local hospitals and ask how you can directly help.
Thank you for loving us and taking sweet care of our families. An act of service will never go unappreciated. It means more to us than you’ll ever know.
To wrap all these thoughts up about acts of kindness, here’s a story from Patty about her sweet friends:
While sitting in our apartment alone for the first time with my heart warrior, I began a text conversation with my girlfriends. We had moved to Houston for our daughter’s care and I desperately missed my Austin family. They were at a gathering together for a celebration — one of the many I have missed. I sent a simple four word text: “I am so lonely.” It was late in the evening and we were hours apart, but I will always be grateful for the response: “We are on our way.” Within a few hours and in the middle of the night, my friends came to rescue me. This was an act of love I’d never expect to see from friends during that time. In this case it’s extreme, but I consider myself very lucky to have loyal friends crazy enough to have done that.
Has someone done something for your family or heart warrior that will stay with you forever?