Sunday, July 1, 2012

These halls...

These brightly painted, and beautifully decorated. Done with a purpose in take the minds of sick, young children far away from the hospital that they are stuck in. Halls with beautiful giraffes, zebras, and monkeys frolicking. Pinwheels that get spun 500 times a day, as little faces light up, watching the colors swirl. The only fireworks most of these children will enjoy this 4th of July. Halls with big purple dinosaurs that sing sweet songs, and statues of dogs with frogs on their feet. Walk further, and a beautiful carousel, complete with twinkling white lights, whisks you away to the state fair for a few minutes. Just another few feet, and the fish tank comes into sight. Built into the wall heading to the play deck, it's always a big hit with the kids. These halls serve a purpose, and they serve that purpose well. Faces dull with the ravaging effects of chemo light up at the sight of Barney. Children run to be the first one to play Bingo, as Mom and Dad race to keep up with the IV pole that is attached to their child.

These halls...sitting on the bench in front of Barney is where I met McKenzie's grandma. Josiah and McKenzie took turns turning Barney back on. She's 2. When she was 6 weeks old, her parents brought her in to the ER, because she just wouldn't stop crying and she never stopped throwing up. What they thought was bad reflux soon became medulloblastoma. Brain cancer. Soon, these halls became more than just a place to be entertained for a few minutes. They became the halls of their home. 7 surgeries and months of chemo and radiation later, and Grandma said with a big smile- "She's in remission now." McKenzie laughed and danced with Josiah, oblivious to the life outside these halls.

This past Saturday, I watched as the monitors beeped and beeped in our room. So many things were going wrong, the monitor didn't know which way to beep first. The long drawn out sound of apnea, followed by the high, ear piercing, shrill of a brady. Just as that stopped, the steady beep, beep, beep that means a tachycardia. All the while, flashing red with O2 levels in the 50's. I watched as doctors and nurses flooded the room. Men and women called the Critical care RESCUE team. I listened as a CT was ordered of Gracie's brain...STAT. I fell to my knees when Anthony walked in. If only that one man could ever know what he means to my heart. In the midst of chaos, somehow he always comes at just the right time, and does exactly what needs to be done. I overheard the nurses talking about a Valium FOR ME, and I got it together to take a quick walk and really get it together. Out to the zebra and monkeys and giraffes I went. I stood there, sobbing, trying to talk to John, remembering 2.5 years ago. A sweet three year old, unable to really talk due to a massive stroke, would get excited and whisper "zoobra" when she saw that black and white striped horse. Now, that sweet 3 year old is an even sweeter 5 1/2 year old; who has taught her 3 year old brother that that is IN  FACT a "zoobra" on the wall. As I stood there, trying to gather myself, a hospital employee walked by. She cleans the rooms in the PICU...when we first got here this time, I remembered her from 2009. See, as she cleans the rooms she smiles and hums "How Great Thou Art." She walked by, saw my face, and looked at me and said sincerely, "I'll pray." With that, I was able to stand and face the monitors again. Once again, leaving these halls with my tears.

Around the time we were finally getting Gracie stabilized and back to the PICU, there was a silent splash in a backyard pool a few towns over. A frantic mom and dad calling 911 and watching helplessly as their 4 year old son was loaded into a helicopter to come to Strong Memorial PICU. Before long, these halls were abuzz. That Critical Care Unit I talked about? They were loading their backs with every instrument and piece of equipment you can think of as they headed into those big, silver elevators and up to the helipad. I watched as the stretcher flew by us and into Room 5, doors quickly closed. Later, as I passed that room, a silent prayer automatically consumed me. Human nature is to look, and see a still body, a tube in his throat. Mom and dad always by his side, holding his hand and reading his favorite books. On Tuesday, his dad sat in the family waiting room with some other members of his family. We spoke. I did not recognize him, for before that moment, I had only seen the top of his head, buried in his sons chest. He told me his son's name... Drake, and that he had almost drowned. I asked him if they had come in on Saturday, and he said yes. I told him that I had prayed for them and his son every day and would continue to do so. He looked up and said simply, "Thank you. That means everything." Friday afternoon, Gracie and I passed by the room on our walk to the playroom. I noticed the room was full of family...but didn't think much of it at the time. The PICU only allows 4 visitors at a time, but sometimes they bend the rules if family is visiting from out of town, etc. A couple hours later, the bitter echoes of sobbing told me differently. Glass doors were slammed shut and curtains were quickly closed. I was asked to walk the other way when I left to go to the restroom. A few hours later, Room 5 was empty and a little boy that I had never met had forever changed me. These halls. They have a story... a story that all too often is left half untold.

Today, I will walk down these halls one more time. Pushing a wheelchair with balloons attached, I'll stop as every pinwheel gets spun, each animal gets said hello to, and each bright light on the carousel gets oohed and aahed at. I will push the down button on the elevator, as the play button is pushed on Barney over and over. We will give Lobo the dog and Goli-gee the horse "see ya next time"  hugs and kisses. The familiar ring of the elevator will sound, and I will push that wheelchair inside, looking down into the clear, bright blue eyes that had spent the last month so cloudy and dull. The elevator doors will close, but not before these halls once again hear the refrain of this mothers heart.

Thank you.
Thank you.

These halls. To some, just two long walls of a a hospital unit. To us... halls of hope.
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