Single and Sick

I recently took my husband to hospital for a day procedure. Afterwards, when we got back home and were recovering, he looked at me and said, ‘I can’t imagine how I would do this hospital stuff if I was still single!’ 

‘I can’t imagine how I would do this hospital stuff if I was still single!’

He has a point. When you’re single, it’s hard to cope with sickness. Getting to and from the doctor’s surgery, picking up medication and food, cooking soups for yourself—it’s all extra taxing when you’re single and sick. Even simple things like showering and dressing can become immensely difficult. 

And heaven forbid you should need to go to the hospital! 

My husband couldn’t imagine trying to get to hospital on his own. When he said so, it raised a question in my brain. Who do you call on as a sick single person? You have no devoted spouse who can drop everything at short notice because you are the most important person in their world. There’s no dedicated emergency person, no one on standby, just in case you get sick.

Who do you call on as a sick single person?

When I was single, I once became very ill and needed to go to hospital. As I had no family living nearby, I called on my church friends. Every single one of them. And every single one was busy. They were babysitting kids, or out, or otherwise unavailable. 

I do not blame them. They had their own commitments and priorities, their own stuff going on. At the same time, I remember thinking: where is the church when I need them most? 

I had to call an ambulance. Fortunately, they did not take too long. And they agreed to take me to hospital. But many others are not so lucky. Basically, being married while sick is a privileged position. (Although being married is no guarantee your spouse is available either. Sometimes they get sick or have their own stuff going on too.)

Being married while sick is a privileged position.

There’s a huge gap when it comes to services for those who are single and sick. Transport services and in-home care often require proof of disablement before you can access them. If you are not disabled enough, tough toenails, you have to cope by yourself. Unless you happen to be in the unenviable position of needing an ambulance. Then go for your life. 

I guess I’m sharing this story in order to say this: church, listen to your singles. Be attentive to them. Check on them, especially if you haven’t heard from them in a while, and especially if you know they’re unwell or living with chronic illness. You never know how badly they might need to hear from you. 

Church: listen to your singles. Help if you can.

Offer to help if you can. Take them to the doctor. Go shopping for them. Sit with them in Emergency. Advocate for their healthcare. Pick up medications for them. Drive them to pathology and testing centres. Your mere presence may do wonders for their pain and anxiety. Never underestimate the power of simple companionship. 

And please, in the name of all that is holy, if your single friend needs to go to hospital—do everything in your power to help them. You don’t know how desperate they might be. You could be their only chance of getting medical help. 

Be the church to your single friends, in sickness and health.

Have you been sick while single? Did you have people you could call on for help? How did others respond to your plight? How can we get better at looking after each other, single or otherwise? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

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