I need opinions....FAST

WildfireDecember 29, 2001

I just received a call from my MIL saying that her father may not make it through the night because of his heart. My husband and 6 yr old son are away on a hunting trip, so they don't know yet. My son hasn't seen his great grandfather in nearly a year, so my question is, should I allow him to go to the hospital? Although he is pretty mature for his age, I really am not comfortable with him seeing someone that could possibly die while he is standing there. (which is a very real possiblity) Plus, he is hooked up to all kinds of machines.

What do ya'll think? He isn't close to his PaPa, hasn't seen him in a year, and hasn't talked to him in the same amount of time. They live only 2 hours away, but we have been very busy with pregnancy and a newborn--which by the way is now 3 months old and PaPa has never seen. Poor excuses, but it is the truth. Which brings another concern. I know the family is going to want me to bring the baby for PaPa to see, but I don't think I want to do that, either.

By the time anyone answers, it may be too late. But, any input would be greatly appreciated. What do you think?



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Bring all of the kids to see Pa-Pa. This way there will be no regrets on Pa-Pa's side or yours. Best of luck ~Pam

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 1:56PM
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I agree with Pam completely. The newborn will be for their sake, the older child will at some point experience the death of someone he is close to and he really should be taken there, but you can make it an extremely brief visit.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 2:01PM
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Take the baby, no problem there. The 6 year old is another problem. Ask him if he wants to. If he says "yes" then warn him that his grandfather has tubes, etc. and may not know that he is there. don't let his appearence and condition come as a shock. If, after you explain the circumstances to him, he says "No" then accept it. He will remember his great-grandfather while he was in good health and not as he will be in a hospital bed.

Death can be a very scary thing to a 6 year old. You have no way to determine how he will react. A child that is a few years old would react differently. This is not someone that he is close to and will miss. However, if this is going to cause hard feelings with your MIL, just take him in and quickly leave.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 2:53PM
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Take the baby. I would prepare the older child for the conditions he will find and take him. Death is something he will need to learn about.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 3:26PM
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After being forced as a child to do this myself with my grandfather I swore I would never do it to my kids. (i was in 4th grade when they drug me in to see my gradnfather)

When my dh's grandma got sick with cancer and was on her death bed I was suddenly faced with preparing my 9 year old dd with saying goodbye to great grandma. (they had a good relationship) I wanted to say NOWAY with all my being just because of my own experiance but instead I felt it was important to let HER make the decision ultimately. I told her how bad grandma was, and what she would see and told her we would understand whatever she wanted to do.

She made the decision to go see grandma and did fine. So...I guess everyone handles things differently, because I didnt handle things fine but then I KNEW i didnt want to face it, I was forced to.

Anyway, I believe kids do know how they feel, at any age, and if they want to face death or avoid it.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 3:55PM
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Talk to your husband. He should know. Also, he can help give more insight as to whether a 6 year old would be appropriate to have in there near the time of death. It can be traumatic, mainly and especially because at 6, children don't usually have enough medical knowledge or experience (or religious or life knowledge or experience) to understand what they are seeing. Tubes, and things can interpreted very very badly, and incorrectly. The 'significance' of their own presence can also be very very incorrectly interpreted. Talk to your 6 year old. He too can gain an idea about what's going on factually. He might have his own good ideas about what he would or would not be comfortable with in terms of being present in the room, or outside the room, or home with a known babysitter. (It's hard for adults in that situation to attend to a 6 year old, who might be acting stressed out because there is a sort of ongoing potential for 'medical emergency' with the dying person.)

Take the infant. If there is one nearly universal thing that can really give people a 'lift' when they are near to the end of their lives, it's seeing a young infant. The results can sometimes feel miraculous in how the person can seem to 'hang on' a lot longer than was medically expected.

If you don't want to go, that is a whole other issue. You can again talk to your husband and get his input. It's still probably a good idea to allow the infant, but if you are seriously uncomfortable with the idea of being that near at the possible time of death; you should pay attention to that and probably not go, or wait in the hall or something. There's nothing wildly unusual about not wanting to impose at such a time, or in not wanting to 'see.' You can go through the same routine with you, as with your 6 year old. Ask yourself, given what will be going on or possibly going on... and whether you 'get' the tubes and all, or whether they will be terrifying, do you think you would want to be there? (You can also do the adult stuff about whether your presence would help others to the extent that you would be ok, if you did have some discomfort.)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 5:10PM
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My fiance's grandmother got really sick last year and passed away New Years Eve. We took our 2 year old to see his great grandma when she was first admitted but later we called and found out how she was doing through Jer's dad and step Mom. She was hooked up to all kinds of machines, had kidney failures and many other things happen before she died. We were told that this little lady filled up with fluid so much she weighed about double her normal weight. We did not go visit her in the hospital when things got bad. It wasn't that we didn't care or love her. We also did not go in the room when they offered one last look in the casket (the viewing was closed casket). We did that because everyone said it's best to remember her the way she was and not sick and blown up with fluids. We are pleased with the decsion we made at that time.

It depends on how close you are and if you think your 6 year old can handle all that. Some adults can't handle it. Do talk to your husband and allow him to help you decide.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 6:14PM
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Talk to your husband about the 6 year old & decide based on that. The baby won't remember anything, so I'd let the man see the baby.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 8:11PM
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A very difficult question. If it were me I would definitely bring the baby, obviously for Grandpa's benefit.

I would also bring the 6 year old, after discussing the situation with him. His presence would be not only for Grandpa, who may or may not be conscious, but for you MIL and FIL. It would demonstrate a kind of family solidarity.

I would allow your son to stay in the hall or come in, depending on the status of the patient, your son's wishes and you and your husband's gut feelings.

I would also bring a trusted friend or relative who can look after one or both of your kids if you need to stay in the hospital room with your husband.

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 11:21PM
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I would not bring the 6-year-old to the hospital room. If he hasn't talked to his grandfather in a year they are not very close. The wake and funeral will provide good opportunities to discuss death. The hospital/tubes thing could prove traumatic at such a young age, and it doesn't sound as though there was a lot of motivation on anyone's part for the grandparents to see the grandson prior to this. Having the 6-year-old there might make the adults feel like they're doing the right thing but I don't think that's a good enough reason.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2001 at 11:39PM
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Allow them both the opportunity of having a final goodbye. The patient is usually not alert enough to respond but can still hear who is present or missing. Please don't be afraid of allowing your 6 year old to learn how to say goodbye. His great grandmother wil need him too. God be with you.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2001 at 8:15AM
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A hospital is no place for a child who does not need medical services. People are sick and contagious there. I would not take my child.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2001 at 11:56PM
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Well, thanks for all of your input, but it seems that my darling MIL is blowing things out of proportion again. DH and I decided to go visit first, see how bad things were, then get the boys if we felt okay with doing so. (This was a 2.5 hour driving trip) When we arrived, his grandfather was sitting up, talking, walking, and hooked up to nothing. We were happy, but in shock since we were prepared for an awful sight. When we asked what MIL had been told (she wasn't there), we got a completely different version. I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt that she misunderstood and just got upset when she called me, but the way she is, I don't think so.
Okay, now that I am finished with my little rant (I'm upset because she upset my DH), I am happy to say that PaPa should be coming home soon. The doctors HAVE said that nothing more could be done and to enjoy life until it ends. So, we will be taking the boys to visit once he gets home. BTW, neither of DH's grandparent's seemed too concerned with seeing the boys, so I'm glad we didn't take my oldest into a potentially bad situation.
Again, thanks for all of the input.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2001 at 6:43AM
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in the future call the hospital and ask to speak with the head nurse on the floor a patient is on. They can better relate the severity, what is being done and any prognosis to immediate family without all the emotional fear getting in the way. Thank goodness it was a false alarm!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2002 at 3:48PM
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Wildfire, I'm so glad it was a false alarm. For future reference for anyone, I would agree that for a child six and up, explain what's happening, how the person will look, and then ask them what they want to do. And bring tons of Kleenex.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2002 at 12:38AM
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Wildfire, Glad it was a false alarm. One thought that came to mind was for the health of PaPa. Kids seem to always have some kind of "bug" (cold, sniffles, etc) I would be concerned with the kids spreading anything to a very sick man. I'm glad the boys will be able to see their PaPa while he's still up and about, (a much better memory than a final goodby in the hospital- IMO).

Happy New Year, Jerri

    Bookmark   January 2, 2002 at 3:32PM
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