Helping a friend through medical crisis

helping a friend through medical crisis

If you’ve been reading along for any length of time, you know that my heart breaks for families enduring medical crisis.

There’s the obvious reasons: mamas and dads engulfed in terminology and apparatus while the littlest lay frail in hospital beds, shadows of their once boisterous selves.

Few images churn my gut more than this.  My heart goes out to my mama warriors sleeping in uncomfortable chairs.

We’ve spent some time in hospitals over the years.  There was the heart surgery we had for Henry at 23 months old.  Remember?  The one when I was 33 weeks pregnant with the girls.

And just when I thought I would wave goodbye to the sterile (yet friendly) walls of UCLA Children’s Hospital, I found myself pulling into its parking lot again.  With a different child.  For a completely different reason.

The word surreal doesn’t cover it.  But all Andy and I could think was WHO DOES THIS?  Twice.  With different kids.  We were wide eyed at the very thought.

My time spent among some of the most critically ill children, was one of the hardest weeks of my life.  To this day, I shudder when I think of the one lousy week I spent with Jill, versus the obvious MONTHS many of those sweet faces spent in this sterile, ever beeping, climate controlled, life saving, or at least life extending, necessary prison.  I can truly say that it was one of the most horrific weeks of my life.

* * * *

A family friend recently emailed.

One of the twin toddlers she nannies for was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  She was doing the best she could to handle things at home with his brother, but wanted to know if I had any ideas for how to help.

I immediately emailed her the link to My Friend’s Child Was Just Diagnosed with Cancer: 75 Ways You Can Help.

“In fact, print out a few copies of the list.  So you can hand it out to people who ask you how to help.  And then…start a GiveForward campaign.”

See, what I don’t think people really understand is how EXPENSIVE it is to have a child with a hospital-staying, potentially catastrophic medical concern.

“I mean, don’t they have insurance coverage?”


Well, yes.  But high deductibles, sneaky insidious clauses that say “not subject to deductible”, all those things you don’t realize your policy doesn’t cover until you need said coverage, lifetime maximums, not to mention skyrocketing monthly premiums are just ONE tiny sliver of the money puzzle.  I won’t even touch that.  Not today.  Just know that a family  can EASILY spend tens of thousands of dollars PER YEAR, year after year after year, in a dizzying snowball effect even with what people would believe is decent health insurance.

But then there’s the hidden costs.  The ones insurance doesn’t touch.

The gas to drive hours and hours to specialists.  Multiple times a year.

The parent who soon finds they have to quit their job to care for their chronically ill child.

The extra babysitting for siblings.

The eating in the hospital cafeteria.

The fast food runs because no one has the capacity for grocery shopping, much less cooking and cleaning afterward.

Hot coffees that serve mostly as a distraction and excuse to leave the shrinking hospital room.  Because the good Lord knows the caffeine isn’t actually helping your frayed nerves or the bone numbing exhaustion that penetrates your every cell anymore.

The hotel rooms because you are discharged right at rush hour and you might fall asleep on the road if you try to make the trek home now.

The runs to the local drugstore because you weren’t anticipating staying quite so long and it’s easier to buy new than try to run home for more toothpaste.

The eating out.  Wait.  I said that already.

Hiring a gardener, housekeeper, etc to take care of your ailing home because you no longer have time and aren’t even there long enough anyway.

When we spent 7 days at UCLA with Jill, not counting any kind of direct medical expenses, we spent over $1,500 on (reduced rate) hotel rooms, food, and gas.  AT LEAST.

Wait for it though…that’s just SEVEN days.

Sweet little Brock?  His family battled childhood cancer for 3.5 YEARS.  Not all of that in a hospital room, but many, many, MANY months of it.

My friend Lisa?  Finds herself driving 3 hours each way to UCLA dozens of times per year for follow up appointments, tests, and procedures.

Or my friend whose toddler son spent the last 9 months of his life at St. Jude’s in Memphis.  The mama quit her job to hold her boy’s hand and Daddy flew across the country from California to Tennessee once a month to see his ailing son and exhausted wife.  I can’t pretend to know how much monthly airfare is.  Or monthly hotel stays.  But my guess is that there are several zeroes involved.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, friends.  Life as you know it comes to a screeching halt when your child is sick.  Nothing is normal.  Nothing is simple.  And everything costs money.

It’s overwhelming to even think about, much less live out.


But that’s where GiveForward comes in.

GiveForward is a crowd sourcing fundraising platform.  It’s free for organizer’s to start, so there’s no upfront costs.  It’s SUPER easy to get started, and they have a ton of built in features to help get the word out about your campaign easily.  Share your fundraiser with Facebook friends with the click of a button.  Easy.

And no, you don’t have to be the person receiving the funds.  In fact, most families pacing those hospital hallways aren’t the people starting up their own fundraisers.  No.  They are too busy

pacing.  And frankly, if they are like anyone else I know, don’t want to bother others with their financial woes.

If you’re worried that no one will give…you’d be surprised.  To date, GiveForward has helped raise over $89,623,100 towards medical expenses.

That’s $89 MILLION.  In just a few short years they’ve been around.

People desperately want to help.  Desperately.  And while casseroles are a fantastic way to help, gas stations don’t take lasagna as payment.  Flowers are thoughtful and sweet, but honestly, I would have rather had that $30 in my pocket for our hotel room.


So the next time you’re given the knee buckling news that a friend or relative is facing a medical crisis, have the courage to ask My Friend is Sick: Should I give Food or Money?

And if the answer is Money…consider taking the few minutes and easy steps to launch a GiveForward campaign.

They’ll never ask you to.  They might even shoo you away.  But they will be more thankful than they can ever convey.  Promise.


*Disclosure: I am a paid GiveForward Brand Ambassador.  I was compensated for this post, but I’ve been a fan and cheerleader of GF since their earliest days and now consider co-founder Ethan an Internet Friend.  All opinions are 100% my own.  Affiliate links used.

**Speaking of affiliate links: GiveForward is launching an affiliate program for bloggers and website owners with a 60 day cookie.  They would love all the help they can get spreading the word about their service, yes because they are a for-profit venture, but honestly, mostly because they deeply believe in their mission of helping families in crisis.  I know this firsthand.  This is a company who truly cares and is passionate about their work.  Join us in spreading the word, tangibly helping others, and making a few bucks in the process.  It’s a trifecta of Good Stuff.


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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    …and it takes people like you, Jeannett, honest people, who aren’t afraid to state the facts. The fact is, people do not think about the money behind this life changing time in their (our) lives. The list of 75 ways is such a helpful list of ideas that never came to my mind. I printed the list (at first 25 copies, now I’ve printed over 100) and have posted it on social networks and even passed it out to family’s we’ve met at the hospital (everyone wants to help whether they are family, friends, or a stranger from down the white wall hallway) Thanks so much Jeannett for sharing. Little Jack (twin boy) is currently at the hospital with mommy and daddy waiting to hear if this third type of chemo tried has put him in remission…and we have hopeful thoughts! He’s been laughing, standing up, and just completly behaving in a way we haven’t seen since December 25, 2013!

  2. 3

    This is all so true! We just got home from spending time with our grand daughter who had her second major surgery yesterday. My husband and I took our two grandsons home with us and my daughter and son in law stayed. It’s crazy how things add up!

    • 4

      It’s shocking, isn’t it? Even with short term stays, there are just so many little incidentals. Not to mention how much you suddenly have to lean on family and friends. Good for you for jumping in and helping with the others!!!!

  3. 5

    This was a great post, Jeannett. Even though I’ve been through friends many times with family health issues, sometimes I still don’t know what to do/say, and these were great resources. Thanks for sharing.
    Dawn´s last blog post ..Heading out…..

  4. 6

    I plan to link to this post every time I hear “but you had insurance!” from a well-meaning family member or friend. One year and six figures later our daughter was fine, but we are still paying for it now, five years removed from her declaration of health.
    Sarah´s last blog post ..Broken Bicycle Horn or Hyperventilating Seal?

  5. 7

    Excellent and compelling article. People are happy to send money to far away disaster areas but forget about the people living next to them. Giving should start with your family, close friends and neighbors and spread out. It is actually a tradition in many cultures to give money to people who have loved ones in the hospital.
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