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Staying Connected When Illness Strikes

Story ID:4760
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Person:A friend
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Staying Connected When Illness Strikes

Recently, a friend spent several weeks in a hospital fifty miles away from her home because of a sudden and serious illness. I couldn’t stop by to visit daily because of distance, and I didn’t want to bother a very sick person or her husband with too many phone calls. Her family found a way to inform others of the daily news via the internet. I learned what her doctors were saying and about milestones in her recovery. I felt comforted in knowing what was happening. In return, I could leave messages for my friend to read when she felt able to do so, and look for a response from her when she felt strong enough to communicate.

When someone contracts a serious illness or sustains major injuries in an accident, we experience stressful times. It’s natural to seek information on progress being made, any surgery that might take place, or changes in condition. We care, so we want to know what’s happening.

After initial calls and e-mails, close family members may not get back to notifying others of the situation as often as they’d like. They probably spend a great deal of time at the hospital or hospice house, whatever the case may be. Family members experience difficult moments and have all they can do to keep up with the normal everyday activities.

Those waiting to know what happened are also in a tough position. Too many phone calls or e-mails to the patient’s family, or the patient, can add more stress, interfere with healing. And yet, they want to stay connected and be aware of the patient’s condition.

A website created by Sona Mehring in 1997 offers a solution that is beneficial to all involved. Ms. Mehring built a website and titled it The Caring Bridge after a close friend gave birth to an extremely premature baby who weighed only one pound. Mother and child were both critical. The innovative website allowed friends to learn how both patients progressed on a daily basis. Family members were relieved of painful, emotional phone calls from well-meaning friends. Love flowed across that initial bridge in both directions.

From that first effort, a full website evolved that can be used by anyone dealing with a medical crisis. It is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit service that has served more than 100,000 families with over half a billion visits. The Caring Bridge has been utilized in 40 countries to date. The service is free to users, but donations are readily accepted.

Here’s how it works. Someone in the patient’s family creates a personal Caring Bridge website by accessing the homepage at www.caringbridge.org. They look for a link to another page which asks for basic information, and the personal Caring Bridge is soon set up. Friends and family can sign up to read the Caring Bridge Journal and request notification via e-mail when a new entry appears. Those who read the entries may leave a message or not, as they wish. Even those who only use a computer infrequently should be able to access the website with no difficulty.

The Caring Bridge website homepage banner tells an entire story in a few words. It reads “Free personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery.” Visit the website at www.caringbridge.org and read more about this compassionate service. Stay connected with The Caring Bridge.

Note: Published in Ozarks' Senior Living Newspaper February 2009