What can I do for my friend in the hospital?
September 30, 2018 3:38 PM   Subscribe

My husbands best friend was just admitted to the hospital with osteomyelitis in his spine. He is expected to be there for a couple months. He will also be withdrawing from heroin during this time. And quitting meth. He is in a load of pain. He will be dealing with a major loss of income because he is missing the most profitable part of the season. How can I help make this easier to go through?

My husband is going to bring in his traps and deal with his boat.

He has a super high pain tolerance and he is just in so much pain. My husband doesn’t want to give him money because he will 100% use it for drugs.

I feel like I can do better than a plant. But at this point he is just laying in bed and barely moving. What can I do??
posted by pintapicasso to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Visit often. Talk. Hold his hand. Tell him stories. Listen to his stories. Look into his eyes. Tell him you believe in him. Getting past his addictions is up to him, but having you and your husband with him on that journey is going to help him get there more than anything else.
posted by beagle at 3:50 PM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

Consider asking if he would be comfortable with having you and/or your husband involved in his care, in terms of being present for meetings with his doctors, calling for updates, advocating for him, etc (assuming this is something you have the bandwidth and interest in doing). It shouldn't be this way but in many hospitals it can be difficult for a person with a history of substance use disorder to have their pain and symptoms taken seriously and treated appropriately. There are medications that can be used to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and likewise having a history of heroin use is not a contraindication to treating pain.

Otherwise, be there with him. Check with his nurse if he has restrictions on his diet, and if not, bring homecooked food or favorite snacks. When he's able to sit in a wheelchair, ask permission to wheel him off floor and/or outside -- especially outside. You're doing a good thing.
posted by telegraph at 3:59 PM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

This may be more than you are able to do, but if he's in severe pain, he may not be able to advocate well for himself. If you're able to be a sort of middleman between him and his medical team, it could stave off a lot of anguish.

Bring in photos and personal mementos. This is partly for him, but also partly to remind the medical team that he is a human being with a past and a future, not a generic "drug addict."
posted by basalganglia at 4:03 PM on September 30, 2018 [19 favorites]

On the bright side, kicking the amphetamines should be a relatively easy thing and he'll feel a lot better after only a few days once that part is over with. It's not particularly painful, but it can cause heightened sensitivity and excessive sleepiness (which can actually be a good thing given how opiate withdrawals will be making him feel if his medical team is shitty enough to force him to detox rather than putting him on maintenance while he's in the hospital trying to heal physically.

Really, anything you can do so that he comes home to the least destruction in the rest of his life as is possible is what will help him the most in the long term. When you're fucked either way, it's really easy to slip back into the comforts of previous bad habits.
posted by wierdo at 4:13 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

In addition to the above (and not giving him money now), somebody will need to deal with the minutiae of his life for him. Dealing with his house/apt while he's in the hospital. Helping him make sure that credit card minimum payments are made, that health insurance stays active, etc. Just that sort of annoying life stuff. If he has other friends, help organize a team to identify and take care of that annoying but necessary adult stuff.
posted by sheldman at 5:34 PM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

Especially if he has access to wifi, maybe a subscription to Netflix or Hulu and some kind of tablet or notebook he can watch videos and play video games on. I was just in the hospital for a week after surgery, and the television remote and channelsurfing cable was not happening, but if I had to be there for awhile, it would have been nice to have a familiar way of watching videos.

Also, before my surgery, I got a plastic file box and did what I could to organize the rapidly-expanding administrative labyrinth of my life - if your husband's friend doesn't have a portable plastic file box with file folders to sort all of their mail and bills and applications for things like SSDI and Medicaid, it could be really helpful.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:05 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

if he's stuck in bed get him one of those tablet holders that suspends the table so you can watch it laying on your back and then buy a cheap used tablet and set him up with Hulu. Lifesaver. I'd normally say Netflix but there is a lot more mindless TV on Hulu which is better for convalescing and almost no documentaries on drugs, which he doesn't need to see right now.

If he has osteomyelitis in his spine he 100% should be getting pain management from the hospital as part of his treatment and they will presumably manage his withdrawal as part of that too. If they are withholding painkillers because he is an addict I'd call fucking CNN because that's inhumane.
posted by fshgrl at 6:37 PM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Visits, for certain. I had a family member in the hospital for months to treat an infection - she was tired and in pain, and often couldn't retain/relay info. (The antibiotics alone are exhausting, as I remember.) Having someone else authorized to talk to the medical team and spread information (like what kind of food was okay to bring) was a help.

As a visitor, I had much more energy for getting the thing that had been beeping for half an hour to stop, setting up closed-captioning, removing dead plants, etc. I felt less awkward having a 'purpose' for the visit, like bringing in a TV show or photos or lunch (or even a plant), but the main point was just to show up. (I never did get the wifi to work, so would download mindless TV and bring it in. I also did indeed bring a plant, and watered and pruned it in later visits.)

It's also possible he may be transferred from the admitting hospital to a different facility once he is stable and has a planned course of treatment - that's something to check on when you bring in personal possessions (yours or his).

I have no idea how to not feel useless, unfortunately.
posted by mersen at 7:17 PM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

n-thing keep visiting. Remind him there's a life outside of hospital and he isn't in this institutionalized space forever. Don't be afraid to ask him in detail about how treatment is going, if the doctors are listening, etcetera; it can be hard to proffer that information without being prompted. But honestly just someone sitting with me, reading a book and me reading mine or whatever it may be, but there,helped so much.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 9:11 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe do some research on pain management (analgesia) for opiate users, so you have resources at hand to help them out if the hospital is shitty about managing his pain.

Make sure the wife is well fed- bring her hot meals and nourishing, appetizing things like smoothies and milkshakes at the hospital when you can. The hospital won't be feeding her and she will probably be so worried she'll let her self-care slide, and low blood sugar makes everything terrible.

In my observation, people who use heavy drugs also tend to love sweet drinks, so figure out what kind of sweet drinks are a good fit for him and bring those too. Again, maybe fruit smoothies or milkshakes?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:29 AM on October 1, 2018

I saw this in a post yesterday:
"I cry every time I go to get out of bed so my husband went to a museum and is sending me pictures of every single thing that he thinks I'd like"
Perhaps something like this would help.
posted by PeaPod at 11:11 AM on October 2, 2018

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