Harnessing the Internet for Hope and Support
By Sona Mehring
How can I best help my good friends and their soon-to-be-born (way too soon!) baby girl? That was the question I faced back in 1997, when those friends told me they would be delivering their daughter at just 23 weeks. My friends were going to be isolated in the hospital for weeks, if not months, and they faced the overwhelming task of letting everyone know the latest news.
This gave me an idea: a website where people could learn the latest news and leave messages for the family. The same night that my friends’ daughter Brighid was born, CaringBridge was born. CaringBridge, a not-for-profit organization, solely focuses on connecting friends and family when health matters most.
Brighid’s website instantly eased the burden of phone calls and time-consuming, emotional conversations. What I never anticipated – my ‘wow’ moment – was the true connection felt by everyone who visited Brighid’s website. Those visitors left messages of love and support that were exactly what my friends needed in their incredibly difficult time. The transformation was striking; a simple website became a compassionate community, bringing hope and healing. Brighid’s life was a short nine days, but her impact lives on in the hundreds of thousands of CaringBridge sites that have been created since.
Anyone can easily set up their own unique CaringBridge website. Users can select their website design and add health updates and photos to share their story while visitors leave messages in a guestbook, creating a network of support for both the patient and the caregivers.
For a patient, caregiver, and the family and friends that surround them, it is vital to stay connected. The basic human need of community is paramount when someone’s health is at risk. By using CaringBridge, a community can be instantly activated and engaged, bringing hope, healing, and connection to all.
Having a CaringBridge site is a good suggestion for any family going through a serious health event. I cannot count the number of times family members that have used CaringBridge have said it was the MOST IMPORTANT service used during their journey.
I also learned early on with CaringBridge that these websites are special. They connect people on a deep, emotional level. That type of connection needs to be treated with respect and never exploited.
CaringBridge has touched millions of lives – 36 million in the past 12 months alone – but so many are still in need. CaringBridge sites are free, easy, and built for one purpose: to bring hope, help, and connection to all when health matters most.
Sona Mehring is the Founder and Executive Director of CaringBridge.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing free websites that connect family and friends during a serious health event, care, and recovery. An early adopter of technology for communicating health issues, Sona lives in Minnesota with her husband and three sons.