Expatriates: Who Can You Rely On When Your Parents Get Sick?

Christmas Eve 2010. 6 pm, France.

Credit image @ Wikimedia Commons

A cozy Christmas Eve which turned out to be a nightmare…

My parents, my brother and his wife were preparing the dinner looking forward to a tasty meal.

All of a sudden, my mother felt an excruciating abdominal pain.

At first, she thought she was too tired. She had been working very hard in the last few days. She went to lay in bed taking a few pain killers, hoping that everything would be quickly over.

But it didn’t pass. On the contrary. The pain became worse and worse.

Outside, in this little village in the east of France, it was starting to snow… The roads became soon impracticable.

My father, who was extremely worried, called the emergency service. Fifiteen minutes later, the ambulance came. The doctor tried to relieve the pain but nothing helped. Mum needed to go to the hospital.

What was meant to be a cozy Christmas Eve started to look like a nightmare.

To spare my father’s health, my brother decided to accompany mum who left the house on a stretcher.

On their arrival at the hospital, the first exams were immediately carried out. But the doctors had no clue about the problem. They underestimated the pain.
Mum is very resistant and does not complain easily but that night she thought she would just die from the pain.

Every 20-30 minutes, my brother went back to the nurses’room, asking for more pain killer, more help, more support.
Mum was writhing in pain…
He cared for her all night. Attending to any of her requests. He did not get one minute to rest. He did not get anything to eat.

The night was stressful, exhausting and endless.

Finally around 5 am, the doctor decided to give some morphine. Only from that moment on, the pain became bearable. Mum could finally get some sleep.

At 6 am, my brother saw the situation was stabilised. He could go home. But when he stepped outside the hospital, he discovered 30 to 40 cm snow laying on the ground. It had snowed all night!

Impossible to drive. No taxis, no buses. Christmas day dawn and no way to go back home… except by foot! And my brother walked courageously 10 km.

In the meantime, I was celebrating Christmas Eve with my family 650 km away, in Belgium. Because the kids had school until the last minute, we decided to stay home for Christmas and to visit my parents only a few days later. I did not suspect anything wrong on that Christmas Eve. When I briefly called my parents, my sister-in-law made up a clever excuse to not spoil my evening.

What could I do anyway, 650 km away, except worrying?

When I uncovered the whole story on Christmas Day, it was a shock.

All plans were changed. But I was only able to relieve my brother 4 days later.

He never complained about the dreadful night, the emotional and physical exhaustion, the fact he had to go to work 2 days later…

In a recent article, I talked about the 10 relatives we all dread to see for Christmas.

Fortunately there are also some people that we trust, value and love beyond words.

And most of the time, those people who are patient, tolerant, generous, modest, caring are not acknowledged enough.

Thomas, my wonderful brother.

My brother is one of those persons.

His name is Thomas. He’s not an expatriate but he is married to one: Alejandra from Mexico.

He’s 40 years old today.

Happy birthday, Thomas!



Now I’d like to know:

Is there any family member you value beyond words, you’re grateful for and you’d like to acknowledge publicly?

Now, it’s your chance. Speak your mind in the comments. And then email the link of this post to your silent hero to let them know. It will make their day.



  1. Hello Carole, thanks a lot for sharing your own experience. I’m relieved to have read in your article the happy ending. I agree with you: having neighbors you can rely on, does make a difference. And yes, thanks for asking: my mother did fully recover after this traumatic experience.

    2013/1/17 Disqus

Speak Your Mind