Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What to Get Someone in the Hospital: A Soft, Reliable Friend

I couldn’t have made it this far in my battle against cancer without my husband, my kids, my family and friends.
Or Bunny.
Through my terrifying journey, he has been with me.
And while I appreciated the prayers, cards, emails, flowers, calls and visits I received, I have a special place in my heart for Bunny. Like me, he’s a little damaged -- but he’s still here. I sleep with my arm around him every night.
If you are wondering what to get someone in the hospital or how to help a cancer patient, consider a stuffed animal like a Pillow Pet, a huggable critter that doubles as a pillow. Or a similar soft toy would do. Pillows are a nice homey touch  -- I got several -- but there’s something about a sweet, soft face that makes you feel better.
Bunny was an accidental pal.
A friend and her son walked into my hospital room in February 2006 when I was sick and getting sicker. Doctors weren’t sure of a diagnosis and the prognosis was murky. They brought me a get well balloon and attached was a stuffed rabbit. When the balloon deflated, I had someone cut the string off. And I kept Bunny. 
He was a pale yellow, soft friend with magenta feet and long, floppy ears. Now, he is a faded version of his original self. He sits slouched, about eight inches tall. He has a dusty pink nose, no mouth and his left eye is half gone.
I didn’t know when I first got him that I would remain bedridden in hospitals and rehabilitation centers for more than four months. Or that I would then undergo a  chemotherapy regimen that involved a rotation of one week of hospitalization and three weeks at home for another year. Later, I would have more weeks in the hospital for surgeries, more chemo and a bone marrow transplant.
Bunny came with me to every new hospital bed.
Before I got sick, I was in the habit of sleeping on my side and hugging a pillow. When a brain tumor rendered me paraplegic, I couldn’t turn to my side without help. And I required many pillows to keep me from rolling back once I had been placed on my side. I had to prop up my booted feet with additional pillows so they wouldn’t flop to the side. Upon checking into a room, I always requested more pillows. Hospital pillows range in thickness from OK to barely there; and in softness from not to not.
But I always had Bunny. He was a comfortable pillow to hug when I was on my side, an extra soft boost behind my head. He was a ledge to rest my arm on when I couldn’t bend it. He was with me in the middle of hundreds of nights when I was alone. He accompanied me to in-hospital scans in what seemed from my gurney like cold, metallic basements.
The hospital staff grew attached to him. Everybody commented on him. Some thought he was Eeyore, Winnie-the-Pooh’s donkey friend. Others thought he was a Beatrix Potter rabbit.
They would ask his name and seemed disappointed when I told them. I was too sick to be more creative. Over the months, nurses learned his name and would stop by specifically to see if I had brought Bunny. Of course I had. 
Five years ago, I was released from the hospital, using a wheelchair. My husband threw Bunny in the car as we drove my son to college. He made an excellent travel pillow and I have brought him with me to every trip and hospital stay since.
I even got permission to clean him and bring him to my month-long hospitalization for a stem cell transplant three years ago. (Because a person’s natural immune system is wiped out during the procedure, doctors are careful about what’s allowed in the room.)
A few years ago, I began noticing advertisements for Pillow Pets. A California mother invented the huggable animals as a way for children to find comfort from their stuffed buddies around the clock.
They reminded me of Bunny.
Any child would love them, but sick or bedridden people of any age would especially appreciate them or something like them. This year, a 7-year-old cancer patient from Indiana started a drive to provide one for every patient in his local children’s hospital, donating more than 2,000 pets to sick kids.
A few years ago, the friend who gave him to me came by my house. Bunny was in his spot next to me in my at-home hospital bed.
She didn’t recognize the worn, little rabbit behind my head.
“That’s the same bunny?” she said.
Yep, I told her. He’s been with me all along.


  1. Oh, Laura this post has me teary-eyed. God bless Bunny :-)

  2. Your suggestion is so helpful! I never know what to get friends who are sick, now I know! Thanks