By Elaine Viets In Brain Storm, my new death investigator mystery, Angela Richman is misdiagnosed by Dr. Porter Gravois. He's a wealthy insider in mythical Chouteau County, Mo., home of the one percent and those who serve them. Angela has six strokes, brain surgery, and a coma. She's saved by brilliant outsider Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt. While Angela is in the hospital, Gravois is murdered and Tritt is arrested. Drug-addled, hallucinating Angela fights to save the man who saved her.
I lived this story. Brain Storm is partly based on my personal experience. Like Angela, I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, brain surgery, and a coma. I spent three months in the hospital and four years recovering. I've made a nearly full recovery, because of all the people who helped me.
When someone you care about has a serious illness, you want to help them. Here are several way to help – and one way to seriously tick off a sick person.
"You're so lucky." These three little words will drive sick people nuts. Your best friend was hit by a beer truck and broke both legs. Your neighbor survived a heart attack because she keeled over in the doctor's office. I had six strokes and brain surgery. Yes, I was lucky – everyone said so. But it took me years to understand that. "You're so lucky" is the last thing I wanted to hear when I was sitting in a hospital with my head shaved, tubes stuck in my arm, ringing for a nurse to help me to the john. But that's what people said – and I saw red. They meant well, but when one hapless doctor said, "You're so lucky," I screamed at him, "Winning the lottery is lucky. This is not!"
"Uh, I didn't mean it that way," he stammered. "I meant you were lucky to survive, but you're really unlucky now, but you're still here."
Food – for the patient: Most hospital food is lousy. It's also unhealthy – veggies are boiled into mush, bread is white and desert-dry, meat is gray and tastes like fried rubber bands. I was so grateful to the friends who brought me meals in the hospital. They gave me roast chicken, lobster with twice-baked potatoes, chocolate, fresh fruit, candy bars, brownies. Luckily, I wasn't on a restricted diet. If you want to bring food to friends in the hospital, check their dietary needs first: One woman recovering from a heart attack had to turn down a delicious pork roast dinner slathered in gravy. For her, that really was a heartbreaking meal.
Food – for the family or care giver: When your wife, husband or child is in the hospital, you don't have time to cook. Sitting beside a hospital bed is more tiring than digging ditches. I was grateful to my friends who brought Don roast chicken, casseroles, or sent food baskets. I knew when he went home, he'd be eating right.
Flowers, plants, and balloons: Flowers and plants brightened my bland hospital rooms, and plants made a permanent gift. I took home the gorgeous peach orchid a friend sent. Be careful with balloons. Some hospitals don't allow them because patients may have latex allergies.
Books: Friends shipped me boxes of books, and I read them all.
Lotion: Hospital linens are like sandpaper. Your skin dries out after surgery and medications. One thoughtful friend sent me shea butter body lotion. So luxurious.
Pet visits: I missed my cats when I was in the hospital. My friend Barbara photographed Harry and Mystery and put up their pictures in my room. She also had their photos put on a small pillow, which I still treasure.
Prayers: Even nonbelievers need them. Prayers keep you connected to the world. Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, nuns, prisoners, and Buddhists prayed for me. Thank you.
Cards: Cards are colorful, inexpensive, and thoughtful. I received more than 400 cards from friends and readers, and kept them all. I have a suitcase full of good wishes.
Tacky card contest: I loved it when friends started a tacky card contest. I can't print their messages here, but they made me laugh. Not a good idea for sweet old Aunt Mildred, the church lady, or Uncle John the preacher. But a mild dose of wicked was good medicine for me.
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Buy Brain Storm: Through August 1, the e-book is $1.99 and the trade paperback is $9.99. amzn.to/29KudfA