Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Time and a Place

Time and space morph and contort as the car turns off of the highway, skirts the edges of Forest Park and enters a parking garage across from the Emergency Room entrance at St. Louis' Children's Hospital. The experience is discombobulating; fed by the fear of the unknown and enhanced by the slow, upward spiral through level after full level of the parking garage. At every turn, brightly colored caricature concrete barriers smile blankly through the darkness. The somber mood in the front seat limits any potential laughter at the frozen grins of the figures or at the signs hanging from the cold concrete ceiling announcing unexpected speed limits of '4 3/8' and '3.1415'.

Cutting through the fog of exhaust, exhaustion, and fear to reach the elevator, the threshold to a bridge into the hospital itself, the weary, leery parents and child are greeted by more cheery colors and the smiling voice of a young boy: "Going DOWN!", "Wheeeee!" Their child smiles from his father's arms as the elevator and his stomach drops, but the expressions on the parents' faces remain those of worry, discomfort and dread.  "2nd Floor!", "Welcome to St. Louis Children's Hospital!" The voice is chipper and innocent. The child smiles at the tingle in his stomach as the elevator stops and the doors open onto the entry bridge.

Despite the gloomy, Londonish weather settling upon every window and skylight in the main hospital lobby, the vivid colors found in tiles, carpeting, paint, sculptures, and displays ignite a warm and welcome atmosphere. As the parents and their child cross the bridge into the main building, a toy train chugs steadily along tracks suspended above their heads. The child looks up and watches the engine pull its plastic freight past rows of model houses as his parents continue their trek to the brightly lit registration desk and smiling volunteers.

"May I help you?" The words open a brief conversation that is friendly and normal, but fails to reveal the true emotions barely contained beneath the surface of both parties. Similar conversations occur frequently in this place as parents guide their children from registration desks to specialist areas to nurses stations, always following the vibrantly patterned carpet, passing the glowing tactile displays and video screens, turning "just past the aquariums" filled with a tropical rainbow of fish darting amongst brittle decorative coral, and eventually waiting, waiting, waiting on uncomfortable chairs for a moment they never dreamed would pass when this child was first announced in hushed excitement years ago.

Sitting in any one of the uncomfortable chairs, it doesn't take long for parents to realize that none of the clocks here work the way they should. Sure they all tell time according to the laws of Greenwich and their zoning regulations, but for those immersed in the ebbs and flows of the medical needs of their children, natural rules no longer apply. Those families hoping for minutes to pass by in an instant, instead find they move slower than sap oozing from a freshly cut tree limb. And those wishing to savor every tick of the second hand, instead find that stubborn hand moves faster than cupcakes at a three-year-old's birthday party. Time becomes the enemy in this land of color and glass. There is no escaping it; there is certainly no controlling it.

After tests and screenings are complete, the inevitable march towards fate begins, typically ending in a furious whirlwind of nurses and doctors and worst case scenarios: "We'll need you to sign here…Do you have any known family history of…and sign here…5% of cases result in serious complications due to…and here…is he allergic to…and here…there are also cases where patients have reacted…and one last time, sign here…do you have any questions?" The child is slipped from their arms and whisked away by the smiling face of a nurse while their fa├žade of smiles conceals a twisting knot of despair writhing in the pits of their guts. What outcome awaits? Tears? Joy? Will life ever be the same? The answer dangles from the ticking second hand of the clock on the wall as it continues its steady march.


 

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Prayer to Many Gods

Dearest God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Zeus, Thor, Baby Eternity, etc.


 

How's it going?!? I know we don't talk all that often (about as often as I've been blogging lately), but I just wanted to run a couple things by you real quick.

You guys are busy, I know, but not too long ago we found out that the Wubster has a heart murmur caused by coarctation of the aorta and he'll be having heart surgery in a bit less than a week. We're trying to stay focused on day to day tasks and we know that the Wubster will be in the care of talented doctors who know what they're doing, but the prospect of any fiddling around on Wubster's vital organs makes us nervous. He could use some looking after by the infinite powers of the universe if you could find the time.

Thanks so much! You guys rock!


 

Doug


 

P.S. I certainly have noisy little adventures to share and, once this procedure is over and life is back to abnormal, I'll try to be better about posting.