Thursday, March 02, 2006


In the fall of last year, dear son was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital for several weeks. Upon arrival, the little girl in the next room noticed dear son and said she went to school with him. The little girl was not young. At 15, she was in here for her “sixth” hip surgery. She was small in frame, and tiny, thin legs peeked out of her wheelchair. She was a fully developed teenager and carried a little weight in her upper body, if you want to call it that. At 80 pounds, she was clearly small for her age. Her glasses were the size of coke bottles and her teeth were crooked, which was the least of her issues. But it was her smile, that would light up your heart.

This particular hospital was filled with adults. The children’s wing, if you want to call it that, was located at the end of the hall behind glass doors that required a pass code for admittance. The halls were filled with old men and old women, in some stage of rehabilitation, crying out in pain and sometimes just crying out, to whoever would listen. It was most uncomfortable walking down that hall; the old men would yell out to me and call me different names, thinking I was a nurse or a family member they knew. Many of them had other mental conditions that were obvious to me.

So this young girl came to talk to dear son and I. She wheeled herself into our room and began telling me stories about dear son and then about her family. Perhaps the most striking thing to me was that no one came to visit this young girl. She had a mother and father, both of whom worked. She had siblings as well, both who could drive. But no one visited. I asked about her family and she proudly asked if I wanted to see pictures. In her little purse, was one item, her photo album. She beamed as she showed me the pictures. Our conversations every day were always around her mother. She loved her mother. I asked when her mother was coming to see her and she would tell me that she was coming on Saturday because her mother was too busy with work to come during the week. Every day she counted the days until she would see her mother. Saturday came and went and still no mother. I inquired as to what happened and she said she spoke with her mother and that “something important came up” and her mother couldn’t come. She was crushed.

Tuesday night was Bingo night. So I asked her if she would like to attend with dear son and I. She was excited. We attended the Bingo game and at the front of the room, the “prizes” were all marked on the table. The “prizes” were gems such as a t-shirt from a local business, a plastic water bottle, a picture frame and some plastic Mardi Gras beads, much like you would find at a dollar store. The dear girl told me how excited she was and that she had never won at Bingo. She was hoping tonight would be different. I told her that if I won, I would let her pick the prize and keep it.

The room filled up fast. It was the sorriest group of people you could imagine. My heart would break as each wheelchair would enter the room; each person broken in body and in spirit.

The games began. By some stroke of luck, I won the first game. I let her pick the prize. She picked the beads in her favorite colors, green and purple. She wore them proudly. A few games passed and she won. She was so excited. She had never won anything. I was proud of her too even though I knew it was just a game of chance. But, what was most striking, was the event coordinator or whatever you call her. She checked the little girl’s ticket like she was an accounting firm doing a government audit. She made certain that every number had indeed been called and that she had “officially” won. I couldn’t believe it. With all of these issues these people had, couldn’t we make it so everyone won? Couldn’t we maybe look at their cards and call the number so they would win?

You wonder sometimes where the compassion is. Here is an institution that makes it’s money rehabilitating all kinds of broken bones and bone replacements yet they can’t seem to fix the human spirit.


Fat Doctor said...

I think the juxtaposition of you never leaving your son's side and this girl's parents never coming to her side is very interesting. You have to wonder what those people were thinking.

neuroticillinifan said...

So often your posts touch my heart. Today's brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine, if my son were in such a place, not being there with him absolutely as much as possible. Few things would be important enough to keep me away. I think back to last summer when my husband was in the hospital. I spent every lunch hour with him and would return to the hospital after work each day staying until he was ready to go to sleep for the night which was sometimes early in the evening but sometimes quite late. I can't imagine immediate family members doing any less for me. My heart aches for that young girl.

Dream Mom said...

Thank you both for your nice comments. It is appreciated.

As for people leaving their kids at the hospital and not visiting, I have found it to be the rule more than the exception, especially at these major academic medical centers where the issues are more complex. There was another 18 month old boy at the same facilty I menitoned in my post; he was there for three months. In the few weeks I was there, his mother came only once and that was to take him home. She had no other children.

parodie said...

I was exploring your archives and came across this post.
I wonder whether some aspect of the "official" checking of the card could be considered a form of dignity - just because you are sick does not mean you can't "officially" win at a game? You deserve (and can handle) the same scrutiny as one would give anyone else...
Of course, officiousness is never particularly pleasant, and especially sad when found in the health care industry.

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