Creative ways to share love in the ICU
February 16, 2014 8:23 AM   Subscribe

My friends just had the worst week of their lives and they are now separated from their 3yo son by a hospital and over a thousand miles. What are some ways he can show them love while they're apart?

One of my friends, for the foreseeable future, is in an ICU unit, with her spouse by her side. Their son is half a continent away with his grandparents. I'm looking for ways to help him stay connected to his mom, who is currently un-communicative. FaceTime is a given to talk to his dad, as are cards and drawings. I'm looking for out of the ordinary ideas of things he can send to them to share his love while they're apart.

Thanks mefites.
posted by ovenmitt to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
clarification: uncommunicative is not the right word. She's unable to communicate; not making the choice not to communicate. thx.
posted by ovenmitt at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can she understand communication? Can she smile? Can she squeeze Dad's hand?
posted by amtho at 8:29 AM on February 16, 2014

we can't tell if she understands yet. reactions at this point are to physical stimuli, not aural.
posted by ovenmitt at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2014

Could he make audio/video recordings they can play when he's not available to talk directly? For example, maybe the son and his grandparents could film a short movie or do a comedy routine or read a bedtime story together or something and send that so the parents have something with their son's voice on it even when he isn't on the phone.

Also, if you want to go bigger, maybe something like a daily scrapbook he keeps up for their time apart. Each day a grown-up could take a picture of him, he could draw a picture, and there could be a basic record of exciting things that happened that day, like "Monday, February 17th: We went for a walk. I met a dog and it sniffed me." Where the kid draws a picture of the dog and there's a photo of the kid eating dinner or something. This would establish a routine for the kid, keep his parents present in his mind ("Was that fun? Would you like to put this in the book for mommy and daddy?"), and help them keep up with his day-to-day life while they're apart, plus it could be a neat thing to have when he's an adult.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't understand if "showing his love for his mum" is for the 3 year old's benefit or the parents. When I was separated (trapped in another continent by a volcano ash) from my three year old her caregivers didn't find she wanted to be constantly reminded of my absence in her life. So, it depends on the child's temperament. At three, ways of showing Love can be baking cookies with grandparents and shipping them, sending photos, making songs and recording them, telling jokes and making some type of jewelry she could wear (not sure if that would be an issue in ICU?)
posted by saucysault at 8:41 AM on February 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

Stringing beads on elastic thread for a bracelet or anklet would be good--there are often a lot of tubes/wires at the head of the bed but often ankles are free.

Making a family picture collage to send might be fun for him and is something that is great to have in the ICU to remind the doctors/nurses that the sick and non communicative patient in front of them is really a person with a vibrant family life.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:55 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If this were my child I would really want him or her to have only the dimmest knowledge of what's going on and in only the most abstracted of terms. "Where's mommy?" "She's sick and resting."

Three year olds struggle with the concept of time and the sense of themselves in relation to others -- if she were twelve, it would be a different story, or even five -- but at three, I would really focus on maybe sending some pictures of the child to dad via email. The constant reminder of 'kid is okay, kid is playing with blocks, kid is happy' would be incredibly comforting to me, if I were in this situation--I would be terrifically worried about my child missing me, being frightened.

Tons of pictures and videos to dad would be most comforting, I think.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:30 AM on February 16, 2014 [21 favorites]

If it were my child, I would want him close by his dad, and give him (and me) a daily dose of ten minutes of together-time and then hand-off to grans or other caretaker. A three year old might find the situation upsetting or confusing, but that is part of life, and it's his mum, and also, it might do mum a world of good. I realize there are many factors I don't know that probably make that un-workable, but that would be the ideal for me.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perhaps the child could lend his mom a favorite stuffed toy or small blanket -- something tactile that she would associate with him (and that might even carry his scent)?
posted by Boogiechild at 4:28 PM on February 16, 2014

In december I had to be in away from home (in a different city) for surgery and then bedrest. My mom was with me but not my husband or two-year old. My husband installed one of those foscam webcams in the family room at home, so during the day I could see my kid from my iPhone, playing or eating or whatever and had some peace of mind from knowing he was ok. A few times we Facetimed were sort of awkward, but getting constant text messages of the "we're bathing him", "we're getting ready to go to the park", etc made this angsty mom be a little less homesick.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2014

I would be making arrangements to fly the kid to mom and dad in a week's time. Dad could use the company. Mom's not coming home soon. If you think mom will live, send him to dad for a few days. I am so sorry.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:03 AM on February 17, 2014

I was in a similar situation - although younger than three when it started. A terrible llama has the best advice from my knowledge.

One thing that is probably going on is that the dad feels guilty about "neglecting" the three year old. Whatever can be done to make him understand and believe that kiddo is vacationing with others would help.

Mommy is sick and resting is plenty true at this point.

Hope this all works out.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2014

as always, thank you so much for your insight and sharing your personal experiences. mr mitt and i are the best aunt and uncle in the world, but we are not parents, and we value what you've been able to bring to this new unfortunate conversation in our lives.

i've marked these all as best answers. While not something i'm prone to do, each of you seem to write from a place of sincere desire to help and that means so much to me - a stranger in the ether who was so desperate to help a kid that i might have failed to consider the kid altogether.
posted by ovenmitt at 5:29 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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