A Community of Strangers Took Care of My Daughter When She Was Sick at College

My daughter is a freshman in college. In planning her move-in late last summer, I stumbled upon a Facebook group just for parents of students at her university. It was full of tips for newbies like me. I was able to find out exactly what my daughter’s dorm room would look like. Members posted pictures and answered questions about what was provided, and what we needed to bring.

Since then, I have accessed the group several times to either request or offer rides home. Being six hours away, having a way to network with others from our area has been incredibly helpful.

I got the dreaded call from my daughter that she had the flu. (Twenty20 @anelehbakota)

I found out just how valuable a Facebook group can be

I recently found out just how valuable this group really was. I got the dreaded call from my daughter that she had been diagnosed with the flu. It was difficult to understand her through the coughing, but she was able to tell me she had everything she needed and was headed to bed.

I considered driving the six hours to take care of her. I would probably have done it any other time, but we were leaving on a vacation with our younger children a few days later, a celebration of my mother’s 75th birthday. I didn’t want to disappoint them, or even worse, bring the virus on the vacation with me. 

Within hours, her two best friends’ mothers called. They had heard the news and wanted to know how they could help. I have never met one of these women, and only met the other (the mother of my daughter’s roommate) once, when they moved in. I told the roommate’s mom that we would understand if her daughter left the room for now. I asked both moms if they could have their daughters check in on mine a few times a day, to see if she needed anything, and to bring her hot soup or tea from the dining hall. I asked them to remind their daughters to wash/sanitize each time they left the room. 

The roommate did leave to stay elsewhere, and the other friend, who lives on her floor, did check in frequently. Despite their best intentions, neither of these mothers could be of real assistance, seeing as one is more than an hour away, and the other was on a trip overseas.

The next morning, I called my daughter. Then I texted, emailed, and called again. I was worried and trying to find something I could do to make her (and me) feel better. I decided to reach out to that community of parents in the Facebook group. Just like my daughter, I was uncomfortable asking for help, so I typed as non-intrusive a post as I could muster. 

“My freshman daughter was diagnosed with the flu this morning and I am 370 miles away. Any suggestions for what I could send her real quick to show her we care?”

My daughter was 370 miles away and had the flu

It wasn’t until after 1pm that I finally got a response from my daughter. She sounded worse than I could’ve imagined. Speaking in a raspy voice through tears, she told me that she had been up most the night, coughing and feverish. She said that the dining hall policy is that food cannot be taken out, so she hadn’t asked her friend to bring her food.

She admitted to being hungry, and I could tell that she felt so alone. Her whole life, I had coddled her every time she was sick, bringing her whatever she needed, checking on her, and comforting her. 

I got in touch with the residence director who assured me that he would facilitate the dining hall releasing meals to her friend.

Then I looked at Facebook. I had gotten 48 responses. My heart raced as I read them all. There were suggestions about places that delivered, pharmacy gift cards, and herbal remedies. And then there were these:

Here are the messages I got from other moms

“I am hanging out in the Holiday Inn nursing my daughter who has the flu. Let me know if I can do anything! (Seriously!)”

“I live 10 minutes from campus. Let me know if you need anything or want anything delivered.”

“I can’t imagine if my kids were that far away, and parents who are close weren’t there to help. It’s really is a caring community…so happy to be a part of it. I’m 45 minutes away and I’m always happy to help in any way.” 

“I’m just the next town over and can also bring her whatever she needs. Does she have Tylenol and plenty of tissues?”

“I am heading to campus this afternoon to drop off some things to my daughter, and would be more than happy to grab something for her!!”

“I am heading up to UNH tomorrow to see my daughter and I’d be more than happy to help in any way! Just let me know!”

“I’m going to campus today. Does your daughter need anything? Happy to run to a drug store and drop off supplies to her.”

I responded to the most recent post, that yes, I would love if she could bring my daughter some things. When we started private-messaging, it turned out that my daughter and her son knew each other. We messaged about what my daughter needed, which dorm, when she would arrive, and Venmo information. I let her know that I didn’t want her to go too much out of her way, and that whatever she could do was greatly appreciated.

I can never thank this mom enough for what she did for my daughter

Soon after, my daughter FaceTimed me. She looked worn out, but was smiling. She was completely overwhelmed with gratitude. She showed me the empty grocery bags, and how her refrigerator had been stocked with spring water, Gatorade, and Arizona Iced Tea. On her desk were over-the-counter medications and Puffs Plus tissues. She was sipping on a fruit smoothie from the best place in town, and the container of homemade chicken soup was nearly empty.

“I can’t even finish it, mom, and it was so good!” She went on to say, “She was so cool mom. If you knew her, you would be friends.”

A message came in from this special mom a few minutes later.

“Mission Complete! Hot soup, cold smoothie, lots of supplies. She has my number, and she can use it anytime. BTW, she looks ok!”

That visit was the beginning of my daughter’s recovery. She improved from there. I have no doubt that the kindness of that stranger played a large role in her turn-around.

I made one final post to the Facebook group to celebrate this mom and the community we were a part of, all three thousand of us.

“My sick freshman whose family is hundreds of miles away, just had a visit from a UNH parent from this group! Many offered and one incredible fellow mom brought her food, medicine, drinks and supplies today. Her belly is full of hearty chicken noodle soup and a smoothie from the local favorite place. Turned her tears to smiles. So thankful for this Wildcat family!!”

Kindness is defined by the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. The kind act by a complete stranger did so much to boost my daughter’s morale.

And it’s an important reminder to all of us that we are not alone.

About Adriane Heine

Doug Adriane Heine lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters and lab mix. She is an adoption social worker for children in foster care. Her writing has garnered four Keystone Press Awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is passionate about helping children, doing as much yoga as possible, and sharing cool experiences with her girls.

Read more posts by Adriane

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