To: (Various addressees)
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2000 7:49 AM
Subject: Your loved ones and ARDS

I'm writing to all of you since you have someone you know, a friend or family member going through the battle with ARDS. I know something of what you are experiencing; my father was diagnosed with ARDS following pneumonia in mid-November 1999. (Editorial change: Mr. Doughtie died in late March 2000 while recovering from ARDS).

If you were like me, you had never even heard of ARDS before this time in your life. It can certainly be tough on you, just like it is hard on your loved one who has ARDS. I wanted to share a few things that have helped me. Please take from it whatever you may decide is of value to you.

One Day at a Time. This has worked well for me. I stop myself whenever I start "what if-ing" about the future. Recovery from ARDS is a slow, gradual process. So it doesn't seem to benefit anyone to get too far ahead.

Become informed. Obviously you have probably already learned a great deal from the support group and web site, as I have. Talk with your docs (and nurses)! Find out all the issues regarding your loved ones' condition and health care plan. On that note, most medical folks prefer one family member to be the "spokesperson" for the whole family. Make sure you are all in agreement as to who that should be, and let them consistently be the primary contact.

Even if your loved one appears completely asleep and unaware, assume they hear everything you say. I talk to my father every day, telling him about ordinary things in my workday, how well my mother is doing, what fun we had playing with our dachshund (their "grand-dog"), etc. Ordinary things like that, I think, are good. It is soothing, not emotionally charged. Many survivors report they were aware of more than anyone thought. So make your loved ones' hospital room a safe haven of positive words and reassuring feelings.

Make sure you take the time to express yourself emotionally in whatever way is appropriate for you. The stress builds in me and I sit down and have a good cry with my wife every week or so. It isn't scheduled or anything; I just know it is going to happen and I let it happen as soon as I am able to. It really helps.

Especially early on, I took advantage of the assistance of hospital chaplains. Having that clearminded, concerned, stable person to talk to and lean on helped make the unbearable just a little bit bearable. I recommend it if you are comfortable with it.

Last and most important, try to eat right, sleep well, and maintain something approaching a normal schedule. If we don't look after ourselves, we cannot do our best to look after our loved one in the hospital. I know it is not easy. When my father first went into ARDS crisis, I was off work for three days while I scrambled to take care of my mother (she is 72), and figure out how to deal with all this. When I initially returned to work, I was resentful. I didn't feel I should have to bother with all this "unimportant" stuff. I quickly realized this was an unrealistic attitude. Who can afford to take a few months off? Also, the normalcy of routine was actually good for me. It steadied me at a time when I was pretty shaky.

I imagine that some of your docs and nurses may have said some things that give you cause for concern about your loved ones' recovery. It is always part of their job to let the family have worst-case information. They are serving you well in doing it, however unpleasant it may be. ARDS is a serious condition. But people can and do recover. Do not lose faith. Do not lose heart. You are not alone. I know it can be a hurtful path to walk. But somehow, we will all walk it together, as best we can. One Day at a Time.

If any of you wish to correspond, I would love to hear from you. Your loved ones are in my prayers.

God bless you and keep you safe.
Jon Doughtie