Thursday, June 17, 2010
A sibling coping with illness
Recently, after a Be the Change presentation at a health forum, a young male nursing student asked me how a nurse can effectively care for not just the patient but also the siblings who are surrounded by a brother or sisters illness. I was encouraged by his question mostly because the level of his compassion was displayed by it. He was not only concerned about the care of his patient but also the delicate balance between the health of the patient and that of the siblings. This confidently assured me he is going to be a great nurse. Siblings of someone who is ill, especially a young child are innocently and most often helplessly bound by the disease in a category all on its own.
In the case of our daughter Jessica, I know there were many times she experienced something frightening happening to her brother. When a medical crisis started happening, I just couldn’t put her needs first because of the critical nature involved in her brother’s syndrome. As her Mother, I had the deep desire to want to protect her but honestly, one person can not physically or emotionally have that much capacity in that type of situation. I needed someone to care for Jessica while I was caring for Michael. Therefore, it's vital for the nursing staff to support the siblings when a medical crisis occurs and care for them while others are caring for their sibling.
We never know what the outcome of any medical trauma is going to be and considering the sibling already copes with the reality of what could happen to their brother or sister as a result of the illness, they just don’t need another horrifying experience to add to it. We must put just as much attention on the sibling as we do the patient in order to give quality care to the whole patient; body, mind and spirit which includes their family. It is another example of a relationship that must be valued and when it is the human experience is nurtured.
As I watched Jessica walk that bumpy road with her brother, demonstrating just as much courage and faith as he did, it strengthened me in my journey with them. Siblings share something unique and special just to them as sister and brother. As their parents, it is our grace filled privilege to have a front row view of their relationship impacting us in ways we never could have imagined.
We have been blessed by many treasured family and friends who have wrapped their arms around Jessica, helping us care for her during the time of Michael illness and continue to do so in the loss of her brother. It truly does take a village to raise a child especially in a situation like ours. That nurse who asked me the question about siblings will be given that same opportunity, probably many times during his nursing career. He will be the arms wrapped around a sibling for a Mom or Dad who are in a difficult medical situation, doing the very best they can.
He will Be the Change.