Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When Grandparents Get Sick

Two days ago I had a really upsetting experience. As I left a memorial service for a friend, which was held at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan, I was just outside the hospital when I saw two children, about 10 and 11, with an elderly man who looked as if he was about to keel over – he was lurching sideways. As I stopped to help, the younger child, a boy, asked me if I had a phone. I took out the phone with one hand and gave it to him. Meanwhile I reached out and held up the man to keep him from falling. The girl dialed a number but it didn’t go through. Neither of the children seemed to speak good English, and the man wasn’t speaking at all.

With the help of another passerby and an attendant we got the man, who turned out to be the children's grandfather, into a wheelchair, and the attendants said they would take him to the Emergency Room. The three had been visiting the grandmother, a patient in the hospital, and when they came out the grandfather got sick. The hospital attendant who eventually came over thought that he had had a stroke, which seemed likely. The man behind the desk spoke Spanish and was able to communicate with the children and to tell them they could go up to tell the grandmother what was happening. I offered to go up with them – I hated just leaving them there, but they waved me off and went on their way. I tried telling the grandfather where the children were going, but he didn’t seem to understand me, so I asked the wheelchair attendant to tell him in Spanish, which he did. It wasn’t clear whether he understood him either or whether the stroke, or whatever was happening with him, left him unable to grasp what was happening. I felt really bad for this family, wondering how the children would get home, who would be there to take care of them, and how they would deal with the trauma of seeing their grandfather get so sick while he was supposed to be taking care of them.

Then I thought about the implications for all of us who take care of our grandchildren. Although when we do this we're usually healthy and don't anticipate a problem like this, trouble can come from nowhere. I have been trying to figure out what we can do to be sure that if we are suddenly taken ill or are injured, our grandchildren will be cared for. One thing is that we should always have a phone with us at these times, and for children who are old enough to use one, we should teach him or her how to call for help. One precaution is to have 911 programmed into our phones at the top of the list. But what else? I would welcome any suggestions from other grandparents.

6 comments:

Nina Lewis said...

What a heart wrenching experience for you and for those children!!

As I read your post, I thought that maybe grandparents could carry an information card in their purse or wallet with information that might help in these types of situations. A phone number of a doctor, close friend, neighbor. And then make sure that your grandchildren know about the information, how to get it from your purse in case you are unable to speak, and then what to do.

I know that some people wear medical bracelets. If grandparents wore one, they would have to teach their grandchildren about the bracelet and how to use the information.

You were so kind to assist these people at this trying time!

Connie said...

I am going to teach Kenz to dial 911. We have talked about it, but I think it's time to practice it... with the phone on off, of course. Thanks for the reminder.

Edna said...

I've wondered the same thing, particularly since four of my grandchildren live with us. Their parents are also living with us now but the children have come to really depend on us. When my husband or I get sick or laid up for a while I can see the panic in their faces. I mean we aren't getting any younger. I need to help them to refocus that trust back to their parents now that they are able to take care of them.

Kim's Mom said...

Thank goodness you were there to help, and to offer a reassuring presence for the children.

As an older parent, I do have some of the same concerns you speak of. I usually don't think of myself as 50+, but every once in awhile my body reminds me. I can fight it all I want (and I will) but the reality is I'm not a youngster any more.

I think Nina's idea of an informational card is a good one.

Hope all is well with you!

Connie said...

Hi, I came across your blog today while surfing for grandparenting long distances. This story caught my attention, I do have a great site that I heard about from another friend it is, http://www.myrapidmd.com/
it is a little program for your cell phone, called esp, emergency service profile, when I signed up it was free, now there is a yearly fee, but it can be a life saver. At them moment it is not compatible with the iphone a a few others. but you can enter it in your contact list, with your ice numbers, in case of emergency numbers to call. Everyone who has a cell phone should have something for others to recognize as emergency contacts. It's something we don't think about but should. Thanks for the blog, I've enjoyed going through it.
Connie

Sally said...

Thanks, Connie, for this resource -- www.myrapidmd.com. I checked it out, and it's $19.95 for the first year, and $5.95 for every yearly renewal after that. They also have a family plan for a minimum of 4 phones for $59.95 the first year and $19.95 for yearly renewals. They also have plans for corporations, colleges, etc. A good resource, especially for people with any allergies or known medical conditions.