By Contributing Writer, Kim Doebler
Editor’s Note: Kim’s husband is very ill as you will read in this post; therefore, Kim will no longer be contributing on Visionary Womanhood so that she can focus on the new challenges in her life. Please pray for her, her husband, Todd, and their four children as they move forward into the unknown.
It all started March 1 with a physical. The appointment had been scheduled because of some unusual symptoms, but we were thinking they were most likely from stress. Instead of being told to slow down and relax more, my husband was whisked away in an ambulance. His heart was in a life threatening rhythm.
We had no idea what lay ahead for us, so I made a few phone calls. After making arrangements for the children and grabbing a few belongings at home, I headed to be with my husband.
During the next two months there were several ups and downs, but our friends and family were amazing. I would like to share some of the wonderful ways people reached out and helped us during our time of need.
The first night we were in the hospital a family brought a meal to the house for our children. We live in the middle of nowhere, so it was not convenient for this family to do this. Their thoughtfulness was touching. The meal was such a help because that first day was chaos, and we were unprepared to be away. The children had a hot meal, and it gave us some time to make arrangements for the future.
When I thanked this dear friend she said, “Now you won’t be afraid to do this for someone else.” That is so true and also the premise for this post. I want to stimulate ideas of how to help in time of need, because I know at times I have wanted to help and felt lacking in ideas of what I could do.
After that first night, we had several friends offer to bring meals. One woman set up a meal train for us. This was a great way to organize meals. Meal trains allow everyone to see a schedule of times and specific meals so the family isn’t eating lasagna every day.
Meals are a wonderful way to serve a family. When we were having babies it was automatic that friends would sign up and bring meals for a couple of weeks. It was a great help in adjusting to a new baby.
Recently, a friend tried to get her small group to bring meals for a new mom, and no one signed up. She encouraged them by telling them it didn’t have to be homemade, they could pick up a pizza. Still no one signed up except my friend. In frustration she asked her husband, “Why won’t anyone do this?” He responded, “They won’t get it until they experience it for themselves.”
He was right. When another member of their small group had surgery, the mom that had received the meal after having her baby quickly brought a meal and encourage others to do the same. The group was learning to serve on another.
During our hospital stint, a few gifts we received included: a restaurant certificate and Subway gift cards. These were great for during the hospital sta, as well as for the day trips to see the doctor.
In addition, since I was staying in the room with my husband, a neighbor brought two bags of snacks for me to the hospital. What I didn’t know was that I would appreciate the fresh fruit and carrots the most. Junk food was easy to get out of a vending machine, but the fresh food was a treat.
Anything homemade sounded good to me. When people brought in snacks it provided something I could give the children when they visited too; that way we didn’t have to eat out as much. Todd’s work also sent a LARGE basket of chocolates which helped make us popular with the nurses.
At times it was nice to go out to eat too. Although it was hard for me to leave, it was good to get out. Don’t push, but offer.
Others gave gifts of money for gas, as well as gas cards. What a blessing— all the extra trips to the doctor can really blow a budget. These gifts were very practical and helpful.
People’s thoughtfulness went beyond gifts. Many people offered to give rides to our children. Again, we are not in a convenient location, yet our friends were there for us. What an amazing feeling.
At times I wasn’t sure when to cancel commitments. We never knew how long we would be in the hospital, so I always thought I might make it to an activity. One super friend seemed to know my schedule better than I did and covered for me several times. I would call her to say I couldn’t make it to this or that and she would say, “I covered that” or “I already let them know you wouldn’t be making that.” Others may not appreciate that forwardness, but it was a huge blessing to me.
Another guy friend brought my husband a book to read. Often when people are sick they can’t read, but a book or magazine can be a nice distraction for those who can.
A nurse brought us “peeps,” those sugar covered marshmallow chicks, because she called our visitors our peeps. We were refreshed by her thoughtfulness, and the children loved the sweets. A little creativity goes a long way when stuck in a sterile room. Another friend brought pictures her children had drawn. We felt the love and chuckled too.
God provided a friend to visit right when Todd was going into surgery. My in-laws were with us a lot, but I was alone during this time. It didn’t bother me to be alone, but it was nice to have someone to chat with. The time went much faster when I had someone with me.
Don’t be afraid to stop in for a short visit. Short visits are nice. Patients are tired, but a quick visit is refreshing. We were a little unusual in that Todd was feeling well most of the time, so for us it was nice to have people stay a while and help pass the time. Yet, it’s good to be sensitive to the patient who is looking tired. They want to be friendly, but they probably need rest.
My sister lives far away, and it was hard for her to not be with us. Yet, she was a help to us by being the person I could call even when I didn’t know what I needed. It was nice to know she would small talk if I wanted or would allow me to vent if I needed. There were even times I just wanted to verbalize all my feelings, and she would listen but wouldn’t hold me to anything I said. Very nice.
It is wonderful to receive and read notes. In our technology based world a hand written note really stands out. With that said, texting was still the most convenient form of communication for us. Todd sent out a mass text each morning, and then we could respond to individual texts as they came in. It is normal to be short and to the point in a text, and it allowed us to respond when we could.
Two ways texting helped us: it is hard to keep track of who was talked to, so don’t be hurt if the family doesn’t contact you personally. Again, texting was a great way for those who hadn’t heard anything to request a quick update, they didn’t have to worry about bothering us because we could answer now or at a later time. It took pressure off us to know friends would ask if they wanted more info.
Secondly, several friends texted me verses on a regular basis. These notes meant a lot and were strength to my weary bones: the power of God’s Word and the love of a friend packaged together for a real boost to the day.
Lastly, if you say you are praying, then pray. A lot of friends said they prayed as a family for us—how wonderful! One sweet little friend told her Dad to tell us she was praying for us. Her dad asked if she had prayed and she said “no.” He told her she needed to pray or that would be lying. She understood and prayed for Mr. Doebler. The Lord used this as a learning opportunity.
It can be hard to focus in the hospital. We were ever being interrupted, and our minds were watching monitors and discussing what the last doctor had just said. We needed help praying. We often felt carried during our uncertain time. I knew my God was near, but I also counted on the prayers of others to intercede for us in our weakness.
Todd even said, “I truly believe I am still here today because of the prayers of others on our behalf.”
Do not ever feel like you are not doing enough for a friend if you are faithfully praying for them.
Circumstances have changed since I started this post. We thought we had beaten the heart issues and were heading back to life as normal. Unfortunately, it appears that our battle has only just begun. Todd spent another week in the hospital— at Mayo this time. His heart has lost more of its pumping function. Only the Lord knows what lies ahead for us. As we take one day a time we continue to be blessed by the thoughtfulness of others and that peace that surpasses all understanding.