Thankful Tuesdays: Hope’s Unlikely Dwelling
I had an entire blog to post tonight but life sort of got in the way.
Tonight, my youngest little girl jumped from the third step of our stairway and landed on hardwood floor. When she cried and said she couldn’t stand on it, off we went to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I don’t like going there for lots of reasons. It is where my brother died. It is where Breathe had her surgery when she was only eight and a half months old, and where I saw her in the ICU, swollen and barely recognizable. When we were young, my sister had a seizure and Vanderbilt was the only hospital in town that correctly diagnosed her as having a simple ear infection with a dangerously high fever. Vanderbilt has been a special place in my family for a long time, particularly the children’s hospital.
Tonight was no exception.
Despite a ridiculously long line of people, all with varying illnesses, everyone we met was both compassionate, kind-hearted and patient. When Alight expressed concern about going into the x-ray room alone, she was quickly reassured that I could come with her. When the doctor realized her propensity for walking on her toes and that the shoe he wanted her to wear to protect her toes was hurting her tendons, he offered to switch to a boot, then went on a hike to the basement to track down a better-fitting size one. They drew her pictures, talked in her language and, basically, took care of my baby. When it was time to go, she asked if she could ride to the door in the wheelchair; the doctor said “Of course” and gave her a purple popsicle for the ride. When we got to the door of the hospital, a cop on duty overheard me tell the girls that it was time to walk. I offered to carry Alight and started preparing to do just that. The cop said: “Where are you parked?” I told him and he replied: “Come on, let her ride in the wheelchair, and I’ll walk up there with you to bring it back.” And he did.
Now, you might be thinking: “But it’s a –children’s– hospital; of course they would know how to work properly with children.” But it has been my experience that that is not always the case. And, even if it were, it doesn’t change its effect. Alight wasn’t scared. I wasn’t overwhelmed. The well-being, both emotional and physical, of my little girl was of the utmost concern to both the nurses and the doctors. We were a team, trying to get her feeling better. Even if every hospital in the nation treated children so well (which they don’t), it wouldn’t change the fact that it helps lighten the load of a stressful situation. Seeing my daughter hurting to the point of tears breaks my heart—I have been in hospitals where I had to fight the doctors and the nurses to make them stop digging a needle in her arm. Such events add weight to an already burdened mother’s heart.
And I know, from past experiences, that tonight’s experience isn’t exceptional.
When my brother died, his doctor sat in a rocking chair in his room all night long, even after he’d gotten off work. When Breathe broke her arm, they sent a child specialist in to play with her and reassure her. Tonight, the place was packed full of ailing children and stressed out parents. It would have been natural for the doctors and nurses to also be stressed and short of patience. But they weren’t. They were caring professionals who used their knowledge —and— their hearts. Just as they usually do.
So, tonight, my Thankful Tuesday post is dedicated to everyone who works at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Thank you for not only helping my daughter’s foot, but also for remembering to care for her psychological and emotional well-being as well. It is doctors and nurses like you that make me believe in science again, and in the health care profession as a whole. You have touched our lives more than once. You have helped me keep my children safe and healthy, and you have done so in a never-ending manner of genuine care. I am so thankful to live in the city in which you exist, and to be able to depend on both your well-documented expertise as well as your compassion. Thank you for not seeing my little girl as a number tonight, or as just another name on a chart. Thank you for letting her wheel herself around in the waiting room. Thank you for letting her lay her head on her special zebra-print pillow while she was being x-rayed. Thank you for not insisting she wear the shoe because it was easier, but going instead to find the special boot even though your waiting room was crowded and it was going to take time. Thank you for the Popsicle. Thank you for making a copy of her x-ray and giving it to her when she asked if she could take a picture of her foot home with us. Thank you for seeing —her— instead of just her injury. Truly, it made a memorable impression on all of us, and helped ease her fears and my motherly worries.
It is hard for me to visit you because I see your statues and I remember sitting my baby in a red wagon, surrounded by pillows, and wheeling her down to see the butterfly wall and the trains after her surgery on her skull. It is difficult to be in your brightly colored halls. But, every time I leave your campus, I realize anew that sickness and pain and fear aren’t the only things that reside in your buildings: hope does as well.