Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

One of my biggest surprises when Alexis got hurt was the kindness of family, friends and strangers. Unfortunately in our lifetimes we will have to watch people who we care deeply about navigate through sad and extremely trying measures. Often we wonder what we can do to help them.

I still find joy thinking back on the way people wrapped their love around us, and I want to share with you some of the things that helped us the most. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do to help a loved one who is hospitalized or ill, here are some suggestions.

1. I’m more of a silent prayer type of person, for some reason, it’s a deeply private thing for me. So the one thing you were not going to find me doing was leading a prayer session in Alexis’ ICU room. However, we had a neighbor who was a pastor. He called and then came to the hospital to see us. He asked us if we minded if he prayed over Alexis with us. We were more than happy to have someone else speak aloud the words that were being whispered from our hearts. It was one of the most healing and beautiful things that took place in that room.

2. I also loved receiving messages that Alexis had prayer groups in churches throughout the country. We received knitted shawls and blankets that had been prayed over and then sent to us. It was simply amazing.

3. Make a quick visit, if you are up for it. Some people don’t handle hospitals or traumatic events well. If you are not up for the task of a positive visit, don’t go. If you do go, make the visit quick. I didn’t have the energy to make someone else feel better, or entertain them for long periods of time. I loved having people stop by, but I was also very thankful for the quiet moments.

4. “Is there anything I can do for you?”  “No. We are fine.”  That was a standard question and answer for us. Here’s a better option, tell the person what you would like to do, and then ask if it is OK or if anyone else is handing it. Little things that we take care of at home become a big task when you are stuck at a hospital. Here are a few ideas. “We are going to bring some homemade food for you, is there anything you would like?”  “I want to help you out, has anyone mowed your lawn? I can do it for as long as you need.”   “Can I bring you anything from your home? We are planning on coming to see you.”

5. Flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals are nice. Here are some other things that were really great to receive. Gift cards to the hospital cafeteria. A roll of quarters (vending machines become a nutrition source). Magazines. Gum. Small bottles of hand lotion and anti-bacterial gels. Thank you cards or a notebook with a nice pen. Gift cards to get coffee. If all else fails, think about gifts you would like to get you through a very long, boring and depressing car ride.

6. One of my favorite things that happened was a woman who we didn’t know organized a group to bring homemade dinners up to our hospital room every evening. They would leave the food on disposable plates with plastic silverware for easy cleanup.

 7. The people always dropped the food off for us at the nurses’ station, so that we were not interrupted. Sometimes they would leave a note, and other times we had no idea who did it, but it happened every day. We looked forward to it and I enjoyed stealing the brownies off of Brandon’s plate if he was sleeping.

8. I loved when old friends would just sit with me and talk about other things happening. We had one friend who brought their recliner up for us because the other chairs in the room were so uncomfortable. One person took our laundry every Friday and did it for us, and then brought it back. The list goes on and on.

So maybe bookmark this in your mind and pull it out if you ever run into a similar situation. It doesn’t even have to be an extended, severe injury like ours was. Most of the ideas above would be just as helpful for someone having a knee replacement or heart surgery with a short hospital stay. More than anything else, simple signs of “I love you and am thinking about you” go a long way.

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Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.