Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spring Hopes Eternal


Dear Son was only ten weeks old when we were referred to the Big Prestigious Academic Medical Center. I had finally asked for a referral there, after his condition kept getting worse and his arms were no longer moving. If I were to be quite honest, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing; I just knew I wasn't in the right place. I simply said that I wanted a referral to a “Children’s Hospital”. Heck, if the truth be told, I didn’t even know one existed. At about the same time, the nurse had been on the phone with the insurance company arranging for transport of Dear Son to the new hospital and the equally prestigious pediatric neurologists.

It was the first of what would be many visits. Dear Son had been admitted and we would spend three weeks there before they could give us a diagnosis and get some handle on the seizures. Within two days of the admission, he was started on ACTH therapy to stop them.

Upon release, I would visit this hospital every few days with Dear Son and after a period of time, his follow up visits went down to once a week and after several months, he would be scheduled every eight weeks or so. All of Dear Son’s visits would require walking down this one particular hallway that overlooked the courtyard. The courtyard, was nothing particularly special, except for the Red Bud tree that looked to be over a hundred years old. The Red Bud tree was enormous and dwarfed the courtyard. It provided beautiful contrast against the Gothic architecture of the buildings and did nothing for the grass trying to grow beneath it, which always looked patchy at best. Every spring, the tree would provide a spectacular purple color that would be hard to miss, no matter what your ailment. The hallway, had floor to ceiling glass windows that overlooked the courtyard. I always made certain to walk that way when taking Dear Son to the see Ped Neuro Doc.

Over the years, the hospital and the tree were like old friends to me. The bathroom, located on a lower level, had a window that sat on ground level, even with the courtyard. In the summer, it was always open and without a screen, well, you can imagine what might come in. I made certain never to leave my purse on the floor, in case there would be a “visitor”.

Dear Son had many ups and downs over the years but the tree somehow was reassuring to me. It always gave me hope when I had none. In the fall, the tree would lose it’s leaves and look dead in the winter and then in the spring, the tree would bud and these beautiful blooms would occur giving us spectacular color. I was always pleased when Dear Son’s visits coincided with the blooming of the tree. For some reason, the tree was something to look forward to and knowing that it bloomed every year, kind of reassured me, in an odd kind of way, that everything was going to be o.k. It also marked the passage of time.

Then, they built the new Children’s Hospital. The new hospital is fancy and nice. It has every amenity that you could imagine. As hospitals go, I must say that I love it. I have slept in enough hospitals with Dear Son that I feel I qualify as an “expert”. I stay with Dear Son during all of his hospitalizations, frequently sleeping on a piece of furniture that sometimes resembles a chair, sometimes resembles a cot but most of the time resembles what it is, a broken down piece of furniture that no longer unfolds into a bed. The new hospital had a nice bench that would open up into a bed and a bin to store the linens so the room could remain neat. The old hospital had a closet with a toilet, a sink and a bifold door along with a toilet paper dispenser that dispensed the tissue sheet by sheet; this was the washroom I used when I stayed with him. The bad news was that sometimes a cleaning person opened the door or the doctor would be standing outside the door while you were in the room. The new rooms have a refrigerator in every room, big flat screen televisions and a nice large washroom with a shower, complete with room to store your toiletries. This means that you don’t have to pack and unpack your bag a million times or parade down the hall at 5 a.m. without your make up to take a shower. But there is no tree.

The hospital faces another building so there is nothing to look out on. There is landscaping around the building however it can not be seen from the children’s room. Most of the time when you are in a hospital, things get better. For some children, they will never get better. And that’s where the tree comes in. The tree assures you that life goes on. It tells you that there will be a spring again. It signals a rebirth or a new beginning. And sometimes, that is precisely what you need to see. If I want bad news, I can get it on the big screen.

4 comments:

RunAwayImagination said...

Thank you for sharing your unconditional love with. You are an inspiration to all who read your blog.

Your description reminds me of the months I spent in the hospital during the summer of 2002 with my dear late wife during her battle with leukemia.

The oncology ward had some broken-down cots, some more broken down than others. I remember scouting other rooms as soon as they became vacant, searching for a cot with fewer broken springs sprouting from the thin mattress and exchanging it for the one in her room.

It was almost impossible to get a good night's sleep. There were constant loud announcements over the PA system, nurses would enter frequently to take vital signs, and her "four-banger" IV pump would inevitably experience an air bubble during the night, triggering an ear-splitting signal for the nurse to come clear it. We soon learned that it took a call to get the nurse to come quickly, and I finally located the hole where the sound came out and covered it with tape.

Her room was on the 7th floor, so the outside world was far away. Nevertheless, we would always end out daily walks at a window, gaze out at the life below and say to one another, "There's freedom!"

I remember admiring the mimosa trees that were in bloom during the summer of 2002, which were clearly visible even from the 7th floor. Seeing the natural beauty just outside gave us hope during those long, dark days.

neonataldoc said...

It's funny, isn't it, how some thing of beauty can give us solace when we are down. I hope you find a new blossoming tree around there soon.

dki617 said...

Trees, with their steady and changing/unchanging presence, are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

:-)

Dream Mom said...

Runawayimagination...Thank you for sharing you story with me. Hospital visits are not fun and spending any amount of time in one will only make you appreciate all the little things in life that much more. I am sorry for the loss of your wife.

Neonatal Doc & DKI-Thanks.

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