I had to take my babe to Seattle Children’s Hospital today, and I was reminded of how incredibly blessed we are as a family. I’m a nurse. I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen suffering. And after my rotation of peds in nursing school, I knew that it wasn’t for me. Not because I don’t like working with kids, that I love. But because I would be nothing but a puddle. All. Day. Long. It tares me up to see sick and hurting kids. And today, that is what I saw.
It’s funny, the things that illness doesn’t change. As I passed a girl in the hallway, I could tell that she was every bit the teenager. She had her favorite college sweatshirt on, a floppy stocking hat, earbud wires hanging from her ears and a cell phone in her hand. Her face held the aloofness of a teen trailed by her parents, the bored just-get-me-outta-here look. But there was something different about her. As she left the hematology center I noticed something was missing-her hair. She had all the traditional teenage air, but she was obviously very sick.
And she wasn’t the only one. There was the sweet little babe with the feeding tube, and the four year old, trapped in a wheelchair and the mind of an infant. The children who see this hospital as much as their home as the one that truly is. Then there are the parents. You can tell them by their markings: either the sticker tag with photo ID and a clinic sticker, signifying that these ones are the short-term stays. The day visits. The rule-out cases and check ups. This is what I was issued. And there there are the veterans. You can tell them by many markings. There is an athlete’s edge to their appearance, from trekking floor to floor, office to office. They have run marathons in their hearts and in their shoes. They have spend countless hours waiting by bedsides and waiting by the phone. Counting pills, or blood sugars, or medical bills. They stand out among the crowd, no stick-on badge for them. They receive the long-term lanyards. The orange badge holder signifying them as a caretaker, a parent, a fighter behind the scenes.
I saw all this, and I registered it, but it didn’t really sink in how incredibly blessed we are, until I was eating lunch. I had the babe beside me, playing in a highchair. He was gumming a burp rag and giggling when I tickled him, acting every bit the happy babe that he is. He gets a lot of looks, that one. But then, who isn’t attracted to a baby? So it didn’t strike me as odd when I would look up and catch glances of others in the cafeteria. But one girl in particular kept her eye on him. I’m guessing she was about 15, but her makeup and size could be decieving me. What was obvious though was her captivation by my babe, and she said as much as she left. Initially she just walked by our table, but then she stopped, pausing at my shoulder, and turned around. Her eyes were glassy with tears as she looked at me, then him and smiled, saying
d he is healthy. And that, dear friends, is the difference. He is healthy. A typical child walking into Children’s may not leave with the same results. Their parents may not exit the building taking off a sticker ID, but taking off an orange lanyard instead. And when we’re not seeing that all the time, it’s easy to take for granted what we have: our health, our family.