The People You See In the Hall

These are my children walking down one of the halls in Children’s Hospital Colorado this past April. You can see Vince’s IV bag on the wagon.

During our many trips to Children’s Hospital Colorado, I have bumped many people in the hall. Some of us had lengthy discussions, some we have just seen or see all the time and some we have just seen once or twice. (I have changed all the names here.)

There’s Sally, the teenager. Every time I see her, she looks worse and worse, weaker and weaker. She comes by herself and meets her father at CHCO after he comes straight from work, leaving early. I have no idea what type of cancer she has and if it is her disease or the treatment that weakens her, but I think of her often and cannot imagine what it must be like to go through that as a young lady.

There was John and his father. John is also a teenager. He was there for his first annual MRI and checkup. He had had a brain tumor, had a few surgeries, had been on and off of chemo for a total of 8 years. He was clear and was down to annual MRIs for the first time. John’s father said the doctors had told him John wouldn’t make it, and I’m so grateful that he is still with us. John had a stroke from one of the surgeries and still walks with a limp and has limited use of his non-dominant hand. But he is still with us and smiling. What a nice young man. It was so nice to see John on the other side of treatment.

There was the lady and her teenage son Ernie who had down syndrome and leukemia. Ernie’s treatment required hospital admission during the week. For months and months. Twice. Ernie’s half-sister had to go stay with her otherwise absent father because she was not allowed in the in-patient areas. Ernie’s mother was a single mom and somehow held it all together. I haven’t seen them in a while and I pray that it’s because Ernie has recovered. Or moved. I don’t want to think of any other possibilities.

There was Stacy and her mom. Stacy was a teenager and had just started chemo and had to receive it six days per week for three weeks. She had long dark straight beautiful hair past her butt. I’m scared to think what happened to it.

There was Suzy, the single mom whose son Peter had only spent one day outside of a hospital ever in his whole life. He was 18 months old and coded out multiple times per night sometimes. She had already lost a child years before.

There was Harry, the four year old boy who was playing with my kids but could not even turn his head because his tumor was so big sticking out on his neck. He did not let that stop him from pedaling a tricycle through the oncology floor.

There was the little boy in the elevator yesterday who had just had brain surgery a month before. He reminded me of Vince. He was about the same age as Vince when Vince had his second surgery (four) and had the same scar, in the same place, just on the other side. He even had the same hair color as Vince.

There’s the lady who takes her born-premature infant twins there a few times a week for follow-ups to their issues. My kids play with her other child in the daycare room.

There are the parents I see with tears in their eyes in the halls, trying to hide it.

There are the happy patients. There are the miserable patients.

I see people leaving the hospital with suitcases, stuffed animals and helium balloons.

I see families with an entourage of support in the form of aunts and uncles grandparents, cousins and what-not. I have seen twenty people in the PICU waiting room for just one child. The parents were in the PICU with the child and the other relatives would rotate in and out.

I see parents by themselves.  I see single moms, single dads. I cannot imagine this. This is hard enough and I have Kevin’s support.

I hear children scream and cry. They are in an infusion room with the curtains closed tight. Their chemo is painful to them and they scream the whole time.

I see small families. I see big families.

Kevin’s even seen a former inmate, he thinks, and it did not hit him who the guy was until after we’d left.

I see people who don’t speak English and have a medical translator translate what the doctors and nurses are saying to them so they can understand what is happening to their child.

I see all kinds of races and backgrounds.

I see all kinds of religions. Everyone from those who look literally like Marilyn Manson to Mennonites, to those in full hijabs, to… everyone.

I see all kinds of classes. There are those who have old beat up cars and those who have new Lexuses. There are those parents who come straight from work and are wearing a suit and tie and those who have a fast food uniform on. If you want to see everyone getting together, not caring about class, race or teeth, look to Children’s Hospital- they help everyone. And just the reverse is true, too- cancer is also non-discriminatory.

The doctors and nurses are the generals.
We are all soldiers. The kids are soldiers. The parents are soldiers and Molly Pitchers. We offer each other a kind word, a quick conversation, sometimes only just a smile. Not one of us is there because we want to be, but we are. We love our children. We are fighting with them.  We are bonded with each other, like no other camaraderie I have ever known in this war we don’t want to be in. We are bonded by our love for our children. And we fight…

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