When You Can't Be With Your Loved One in Hospital

Last week involved a surprise trip to the hospital. My partner, who has endometriosis, started the evening having a bit of cramping. Throughout the night, it progressed to a severe stabbing pain in the abdomen and by 5am the next day, it was time to call an ambulance. They arrived a little while later and after a brief assessment, decided it was best to take her into hospital. So I started to get our stuff together before I was told, “Sorry, the hospital isn’t allowing visitors at the moment”.

Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, the hospital is still closed to visitors for most cases. I was to stay at home and watch from afar while my partner went into the hospital with serious and mysterious pain. Neither of us were happy about it, but I waved her off as she got into the ambulance and disappeared down the street. But of course, she didn’t disappear from my mind, so I began thinking about how I could still be of use from a distance.

Things are returning to normal and I assume hospitals will be allowing visitors again soon. So this article is not about the pandemic, I will write more broadly about how one might still support their partner through a hospital visit, even if they aren’t physically around. There are many reasons this could be the case, such as work commitments or travel, so it’s worth considering.

Contact family

The first thing I did was contact my partner’s mum. I called her and let her know the situation, reassured her that her daughter was fine, but going to the hospital for tests. It’s great to take this burden off the person that is unwell, especially if their parent is a worrier. Being hospitalized with pain is one thing, having to calm down an anxious parent on top of that is another!

Help clear their schedule

I also canceled any appointments she had that day - by my partner’s direction, of course. Again, taking the burden of making calls, sending emails, canceling plans, and explaining the situation repeatedly is important for someone who can barely focus due to pain.

Be their go-between person

Being a go-between for the person who is unwell, and all their commitments, while they’re sick, is a great way to support them from afar. They have enough to worry about in the physical world of their body, and socializing and organization can be difficult when you’re in a lot of pain.

Support after the hospital

And then there are some things you can do if you can’t be at the hospital, but can still be there to support them afterward.

Prep for their return home

After some tests, there was talk of surgery. Patients have some recovery time after abdominal surgery, so making sure that the transition from hospital to house to bed is as smooth as possible is really useful. Tidy away any obstacles in the bedroom, maybe change the sheets, get rid of the piles of laundry, get a grocery shop so you don’t have to go out when they’re home, arrange collection of the kids from school, etc. Take some time to make sure that the home situation is as relaxing and distraction-free as possible.

Be there to take them home

And then finally, and potentially most importantly, collect them from the hospital. Surgery always has the potential of being a traumatic experience, so being there as a friendly face when they’re discharged, and driving them home in a careful, travel-sick-preventing way is important - especially to someone prone to travel sickness like my partner.

Having to be rushed to hospital with pain is traumatic enough, and not having your loved one there to support you only makes it worse. But that doesn’t mean there aren't ways we can still be of support and make the transition to hospital, and then home again, easier.

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