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Maria, Ramon Struggle To Take Care Of Mother With Sick Twin

The first of three installments brought attention to a couple, Maria and Ramon, who were greatly concerned for Maria’s mother’s health and well-being. By their collective description, Cicily, Maria’s mother, was devastated upon hearing news of her twin sister’s hospitalization. A telephone call from Cicily’s family in Queens, a week earlier came with bad news. Nina was hospitalizes for the COVID-19 virus. Cicily shut down. She’s not eating, sleeping, or responding verbally. Daily calls from Nina’s family keeps this family informed. A call to Cicily’s doctor was met with a referral for family counseling. They had been quarantining prior to the call from Queens. They received, otherwise, little help from Cicily’s doctor.

They reported no family history of psychiatric treatment. Their anxiety level was overpowering. While clearly affected, Maria and Ramon were seeking help for Cicily. A strong Christian faith offers some semblance of hope. Cicily was rocking in her chair and praying softspokenly. We spent much of the session being solution-oriented. Facing the unknown with this virus has shaken this family’s coping mechanism. This family is in crisis. The uncertainty of Nina’s health onto itself constitutes an emergency. While praying for Nina’s survival, we are challenged to comprehend Cicily’s holistic health.

Looking for guidance and direction, we entertained several approaches. The most obvious was ruled out. We couldn’t expect Cicily to come to my office. I recall a gradate school professor’s direction on what treatment approach to take in a case like this. He referred to the treatment course as lateral thinking. Today, the expression “thinking outside the box” is congruent to the lateral approach. Consider any and all clear and not so apparent possibilities. Today, family counseling is performed in an office with the advantage to the provider. His or her comfort level shines in familiar settings. Formally, family treatment was worked out in the comforts of the family home.

Ergo, I requested that idea to Maria and Ramon. They described Cicily’s state of health, Their anxiety level was clear and prominent. They needed help. How immediate was the need? And to what direction might that need be satisfies? They had strengths I pointed out. Faith and prayer are constructs that can be built upon. They had Cicily’s priest as a support. Unclear, though, was the extent ad assistance attended by the priest. Clearly we didn’t want Cicily’s grief reaction to morph from simple to complicated, an emergency. Survival for Nina was in the hands of medical supports and God. We only had some control here for Cicily. Might she self-destruct given the gravity of her dramatic response to her sister’s plight?

Additionally, we might consider a call out to her PCP to share the scope of Cicily’s grief reaction. Did basic functioning need a temporary boost from medical personnel? Was she needing hospitalization herself? By allowing myself to think laterally, it gave rise to a myriad of options. Cicily’s well-being was at stake. Silently, I wondered the multitude of people in similar circumstances, save for detail. This global epidemic is touching more people than imaginable. For each ill patient, for each death, how many lives have been touched? How many medical staff are caretaking each individual hospitalized? How are medical personnel and support staff managing with the crisis and emergencies moment to moment? I wondered silently about Nina in a Queens hospital. Did she have her supports by her bedside? Family, clergy, friends? Probably not. We’ve learned many lessons about the subject of supported loved ones and their role in the health of an ill family member. Without a touch, a hug, a tender kiss, or a verbal or nonverbal expression of love, sick patients must rely upon prayer and a masterful group of medical personnel, exhausted from this epidemic. Who is there, I asked myself, for Nina?

I was up early as is my want the next day. The weather remained a bit chilly with a stiff wind. My phone rang. It was Maria. She had been awake all night. She huddled with Cicily. She got her to drink some tea. She ate nothing. She continued to rock in her chair; however, she stopped her prayers. That halt, reportedly, concerned maria. “sir I’m freaked out. Suddenly mama stopped praying. She opened her eyes and gave me a kiss, looked me right in the eye and said she needed to see Nina. She needed to see Nina. She rose from her chair and said to me, ‘let’s get in the car. We’re going to see Nina.’ I told mama, no she’s in the hospital. She is not allowed visitors, She’s eight hours away. The family is quarantining. We are, too. She’s mad as I’ve ever seen her. She won’t listen to me. I don’t know what else to do. She’s getting dressed. She wants to go now.”

Is Ramon there with you Maria? Somehow you’ve got to convince her not to go. It’s unsafe. She needs to be at home. Can you call her priest? “We can try. Ramon (I overheard), can you call the Father? (Name withheld for privacy purposes.) He’s calling him now. Oh, you can’t be serious. No! Guess what? Father is sick; not with the coronavirus but he’s unable to visit.”

Maria, please give me a moment to digest what is happening here and now. Okay, how do you feel about me coming to your home? I respect your privacy. However, your mother might be getting agitated. If this behavior persists, you may need to get her help. If driving to Queens isn’t an option now, then your mother needs the best of your love and full attention. If you believe she is cognizant of her surroundings, please let her know that for now, that option won’t help Nina. Even if you drive to Queens, you might get stuck without a place to stay, especially inf Nina’s family is quarantined and motels and hotels might be closed. A small dose of reality heaped in love and respect may curtail her mood. Do you want me to hep? Call me right back please.

Following a shower and a quick breakfast, I awaited Maria’s call. All I could do was pray and mentally prepare for meeting Cicily in her home, if the family offered that invitation.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

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