Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Comes in All Forms, or Who You Gonna Call When You Go to the Hospital?

This is a post about love, friendship, the family we choose for ourselves.    

On Monday afternoon, my very dear friend David sent me a rather frantic message.  “Sam saw a doctor and is going to the ER.  They don’t know if it’s mono or meningitis.”  I swear my heart stopped for an instant, then launched into a rather anxious, rapid pattern.  They were just words on a screen, and yet I could feel the weight and the panic.  Meningitis can be very, very nasty, even deadly, and spinal taps are the only way to test for it, and those are extraordinarily painful.  Mono can be pretty awful as well.  Sam is David’s boyfriend.  David works second shift, so he was nowhere near the hospital. 

Allow me to back up for a moment here to tell you about these friends of mine.

David and I have been pals for well over a year now, and we’ve grown very close for a number of reasons.  I’ve spent enough time hanging out with him that it almost warrants keeping a stash of diabetes supplies at his apartment.  He happens to live about three blocks away, so we are sort of emergency backups for each other.  If Matt and I went on a road trip but left the stove on, I could call David and he’d go take care of it for us.  We have that kind of friendship.  Some may say I am a fag hag.

Sam is adorable and vivacious.  He has one of my favorite cheesy grins when people take his picture.  In January, at a big dance party held at our friends’ place, David bumped into me in the kitchen to confide that he thought Sam was really cute.  We’d both just met him, but I definitely agreed with David.  The two of them were then chatting for a large portion of the evening.  Soon after, they were dating, and my circle of close friends grew yet again. 

Nowadays, David and Sam show up to parties, dinners, picnics, the gay bar, movie nights, many things as a twosome.  I know how much they care for each other.  They are that couple that leaves cute little notes for each other on Facebook so the world can see.  Always smiling, holding hands, stealing kisses.  I love their love—it’s fantastic to see two friends so happy together. 

Poor David was scared, that much was very clear to me.  He was feeling guilty that because of the nature of his job, he couldn’t rush back to the hospital to be at Sam’s side for whatever was about to happen.  I imagined if Matt and I had a similar situation.  I was fortunate enough that he was there when I had to have my appendix out in 2009; he’s the one who drove me to the ER.  Then I realized that as a heterosexual couple, we might not even have to face some of the difficulties that David and Sam could potentially encounter.  I kept David talking, just as anxious for updates on Sam’s diagnosis as he was, and felt somewhat helpless.  I didn’t really think there was much I could do. 

My mind continued to wander.  What if I landed in the hospital now?  Which of my friends would come to visit?  What if something would happen to Matt?  How would I handle it?  What if something happened to David?  David doesn’t have health insurance.  I thought of my other friends with no health insurance.  I thought of how many diabetes-related situations could send me to the ER. 

The best thing I could do as a friend was be there for him, and be supportive.  So what I said was this:

I don't really know what I can do to help you right now, I just want to wrap you in a blanket and let you cry if you need to and hand you tissues and put my arms around you. I know you are scared.  I'm trying my best to say nice, reassuring things. I'm not sure that I'm always great with what to say in these situations, but I can hug. And let people cry.

David thanked me.  He kept me updated on Sam’s condition for the rest of the day.  Not mono; Sam had a spinal tap and waiting on results.  Sam’s mom was there at the hospital too.  He asked if maybe I could stop by during visiting hours.  Shortly after, he sent another update:  not meningitis.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and I knew David had just done the same.  Just a nasty infection coupled with some sort of flu—they pumped Sam full of antibiotics were keeping him overnight to keep an eye on things.  That night, David snuck in through the ER door after visiting hours and made his way to Sam’s room.  I can only imagine how grateful he must have felt that it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.

They sent Sam home today.  I visited yesterday, and both David and Sam were there.  We all laughed and swapped war stories about the other times we’d each been in the hospital.  Sam complained about his IV, which was literally occluded every time he bent his arm.  I cracked wise that my insulin pump had fewer issues, and you’d think a huge IV could do better.  And it all just made me think about how love and friendship are so powerfully intertwined when you know the right people. 

One thing that David had told me was that he wasn’t sure who he would tell if he had to be admitted to the hospital…I suggested Sam, his mother, and his favorite fag hag.

That made me wonder, for those of us who may not have our real families living close by (like me), or may not have family that we even talk to, who would you tell if you had to go into the hospital?  Who would take care of you?  Who would help you get back on your feet?  Who is around to hug and comfort the people who are concerned about you?

I'm confident that if something unfortunate ever happens to me, I'll have wonderful, reliable, loving friends to help out, maybe even before Matt can get home from work, and before my mom could drive the 3 and a half hours to get here.  I am so thankful to have so much love in my life.


  1. You are so lucky and blessed to have such amazing friends as they are to have you!! Glad to hear he is OK now!!

  2. Glad your friend is okay! It's great to have good friends you can rely on and really are like family.

  3. good to know your friend is ok now! i believe that friends are the family you choose for yourself, because, for whatever reason, your family may not always be there when you need them most.


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