Not long after our service birthday party where we wowed residents in the nursing home with amazing magic tricks, I heard from the mom of a young friend that her son was going into the hospital. This young guy is 7 years old and battles cystic fibrosis. CF is a chronic illness takes a mountain of courage for kids and families to manage.
For what it is like to live with cystic fibrosis, read the words of a mom who has two boys that live with CF.
I know how hard it is to have kids in the hospital–you are running to take care of the child in the hospital and making sure that life continues as best as it can for the rest of the family outside of the hospital; there is so much to do and manage. I asked her how we could help and suggested that if her son needed some entertainment, we would love to bring him a magic show!
After a quick call and a text to make sure that our friend was clear for visitors and to ensure we would not be coming at a time that would disrupt his treatments, we set a time and practiced our tricks for our visit.
On the day of our visit, we checked out of school a few minutes early to make sure we arrived at the hospital on time. I am so glad that we did. FIVE minutes after I picked the boys up from school, we heard a tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump . . . yes, a popped a tire. Thankfully, we were on a side road in the neighborhood. I was able to get to the nearest tire fix-it place, and the Pennies of Time Dad came to the rescue with a car that had all four wheels ready to do. This flat tire only took 30 minutes out of our time, and we made it to the hospital just in time.
It is always a good idea to go over behavior expectations and what your kids might see while in a hospital. Just before we went in, we talked about why were were there, what we might see, how we needed to behave to make sure all that interacted with us were lifted (instead of depressed by seeing angry, fighting boys), and to keep our eyes open for others to help.
To protect patients and visitors, one of the questions that the hospital’s reception desk asks goes along these lines: Have you coughed or sneezed or had a fever in the past 72 hours? They are making sure that no one is put at greater risk with your visit.
When we arrived in our friend’s hospital room, the boys were a bit shy. It only took a few minutes to warm up before ALL the kids were acting just as they should, funny and silly. We found out that our young friend knew quite a few magic tricks himself, already. We taught him some new ones and left behind a trick box, a magician’s hat, a wand, and a bunch of stuff his teacher wanted to send to him in the hospital.
In the past, we have been to visit friends at the hospital. And, even though those times were positive, having the task of performing a magic show really gave the boys purpose in being there. I was excited to see that, and we all had a great time with the tricks!
We also found that by walking through the hospital to and from our friend’s room, we came across others that needed to talk . . . needed to engage in silly, fun behavior that didn’t remind them of why they were there. Our boys almost had a traveling magic show going on as they tried out tricks on occupants in the elevator and one young man that was waiting for a taxi near the hospital parking lot.
- Be mindful of the fact that visitors may not be appropriate or wanted. That is okay.
- Offer to pick up homework if the friend is school-age or to take care of picking up the mail and taking care of any pets that the family has.
- Sometimes, a phone call is the best medicine. Your friend may be too sick for visitors and may be even too sick to talk on the phone, but it can be uplifting to hear a funny voice message from a you (maybe tell a joke or sing a silly song–we have a couple we like to use).
- Don’t go visit your friend if you are sick.
- Mail a care package if visitors are not allowed or wanted. Extended hospital stays are stressful, and new things do to and watch are a welcome relief.
- Be mindful of the rest of the family. When you ask if they need help, be ready with suggestions on what you can do. Offer to bring over a meal, to do some yard work, or pick up siblings from school.
You may also be interested in hearing how our family helps Sarah, a family friend that lives with chronic illness.