Yesterday, Tommy was shooting baskets with his friends. Today, he’s lying in a hospital bed. It's every parent’s worst nightmare.

A life-threatening childhood illness can strike without warning and devastate a parent. Your heart is breaking. Your mind is racing. Doctors are throwing out complicated medical terms and possible treatments. Family and friends are calling for updates. And the most difficult, your child is bewildered and quite possibly in pain. You are overwhelmed and wonder how you are going to get through this never-ending chaos.
While no magic wand exists to make your difficulties disappear, help is available. The health experts at the Nemours Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of children, offer suggestions to guide you through the medical, mental, and emotional maze. At a time when all you want to do is focus on your sick child, the best medicine for everyone involved may be focusing on yourself.
  • Pay attention to your own needs. Proper food and rest provide continued energy needed to make sound decisions. Staying bedside all the time will eventually wear you down. If there are siblings, they will need your support and want to have you home whenever possible.
  • Utilize the support offered at the treating hospital. Doctors, nurses, and social workers are trained to help. They can offer resources, referrals, explanations, and sometimes just a fresh cup of coffee. Ask if there is a local support group that you might attend. Sharing your story with other parents in the same situation releases tension. You are not alone.
  • Depend on family and friends. Release your I-can-do-it-myself thinking. You can’t do it yourself. No one can. Allow others to provide a ride, a tuna casserole, or a friendly voice on the other end of your cell phone. The sooner, the better. It will be easier to be truly present for your ill child when everyday matters are off your to-do list.
  • Keep your mind on the present. Second guessing what the future will bring only serves to create more stress, tension, and fear. When your mind begins to wander into “what if” land, bring it back to the present. The best defense is a good offense. Obtain the information you need and tackle the challenges as they come. Day by day.