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
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.