What to do when your College Kid is sick

I remember it like it was yesterday!

The call came around 8pm as I was hosting a pancake party for the teens that were still living in my home. I saw my son’s contact info. on my phone and as always was very happy to see he was calling from college. Unlike my other kids who often call when they need money or a favor, this particular one, my only son, usually calls just to say hello and see how I am doing. I appreciate it so much. When I answered his call, I could instantly tell that something wasn’t right. You know, that mom instinct …. they can say all is fine but it only takes one word of their voice or one look in their eyes to know that isn’t the whole truth.

I quickly learned that he was calling from a hospital room where he had been admitted. He had a severe headache that hadn’t eased up in over a week. The pain was finally bad enough that he asked a friend to drive him to the ER. His college town had an excellent hospital near the University and I knew he was in good hands.

However ……..

It took all of five seconds for me to kiss the teens in my kitchen goodbye and hand over the spatula. I grabbed my keys, and his dad and I jumped in the car for the 4+ hr. drive to get to him. The things that can go through your mind in these moments are awful. They are our worst nightmares. After what seemed like the absolute longest 4 hours of my life, we arrived at the hospital and I was finally able to see him. He was drugged and finally had relief from the week long headache. The hard thing was that the medical professionals were hesitant to speak to us, the parents. He was over 18 and his privacy trumped our desire to know what was happening. He sleepily signed a document allowing the doctors to speak to us about his condition.

As it all turned out, my son had been playing in an inter-mural league and had a concussion from a collision that had happened a week before. He healed and was as good as new within a few weeks. However, it was very clear that I had a few things to learn about the legalities of the medical world and my adult children.

Here are some items that will be helpful to you if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Healthcare Proxy - This is basically a medical power of attorney for you to be able to speak on your child’s behalf if they are unable. Each state has their own form for this.

  2. HIPAA release

  3. Durable Power of Attorney

Each state has their own forms and processes that you must follow to obtain these documents. I recommend that this be done before your student leaves for college.

That son of mine with the concussion is now in his 2nd year of medical school and well on his way to being on the other side of that hospital room. I hope he will show compassion for those concerned parents he will have the opportunity to work with in the future.

As for those teens in the kitchen, I have one in college and I’m launching another this summer so I need to make sure all documents are done. Time to get busy!

I came across this excellent blog post today and thought I would share:


Here a few more resources on this topic that you may find helpful:



Sherri Morrison