Monday, December 28, 2015

When a medical catastrophe strikes

Last evening, I was watching a favorite show--Alaska: The Last Frontier--about the Kilcher family whose patriarch founded their homestead in Alaska many decades ago. Basically, it concerns the hunting and ingenious living of two older brothers and their spouses and several of their sons and theirs.

Suddenly, the wife of one son, Atz Lee, was crying and talking about a horrible call she had gotten. Her husband had fallen 40 feet off a cliff on a hike and was in intensive care. Turns out, he had broken 25 bones, all his ribs, his shoulder, his pelvis...He needed 4 surgeries to stabilize him and will be looking at a lot of rehab.

Will he be able to ever live in the faraway homestead of his own he had been building? Make the cattle drive each year, fish, hunt, and provide for his family? Apparently Azt Lee and Jane have a decent net worth and can weather this. Or I hope they do.

His wife Jane, whom viewers have come to know as a sort of free spirit, was "overwhelmed," she said from his bedside (in the show--he is now home).

How do you begin to cope? Each year, 2.1 million patients in the ER are sent to the ICU. A Loyola licensed clinical social worker named Kelly McElligott, who works at the Burn Center, has some tips:

At Loyola, she says, a team of not only doctors and nurses, but also physical therapists, dietitians, psychologists, chaplains and social workers stand at the ready. This would be true of most hospitals.

--Take care of yourself, she cautions relatives with a patient in intensive care. You don't need to be at the hospital 24/7--people there will care for your loved one. You need to be with friends, eat, sleep, and exercise some of the time.

--You need to pay attention to other family members, too. Life does not stop.

--Accept help from the community. Coming home to food and a clean house is a comfort.

--Ask a lot of questions. You won't know what to expect--but the professionals do.

--Use a notepad of laptop when talking to the pros.

--Share your experience, how you are feeling. This will reduce anxiety and increase confidence.

--Maybe join a support group.

"The transformations that can happen once the shock wears off are amazing," McElligott promises.

My heart goes out to Jane and to Atz Lee. And their kids.

And might I add that internet trolls have been plying their hateful ways hoping Atz Lee the worst...I often wonder about this Internet thing.

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