Last night I left Carson’s ICU room after he had fallen asleep to try and find something respectable to eat at 9 p.m. in a hospital (which didn’t happen, by the way). And I was struck by how awkward this place that I used to work at only a short 3 years ago felt. The halls were virtually empty, minus the passing of a staff member who would very nicely smile and say hello (I mean, it was just the two of us so, ignoring would be pretty obvious). It was so empty. But then to pass by another parent. My bet was they did the same thing I did; waited for their child to fall asleep so they wouldn’t know they had left. Dinner at 6 or 7 p.m. would have been much preferred.
Every once in a while, God hits you with an “aha!” moment. Sometimes I’ve found that it’s not even that profound and yet, it is. It’s something you know you’ll remember. Something that will stick with you for a long time. Like what your wife looked like as she walked toward you to take your vows together, or the first time you see your baby. Ok, so this wasn’t quite one of those landmark moments, but still.
Thanksgiving – as I stood in line to pay for what they consider food in the dining hall, I heard some employees asking the food staff if they would be making turkey tomorrow. “Yes! And it will be free to staff and families too.” Hmm … well, I wish I could be excited, but that was nice. And then I heard one of the cashiers talking to her fellow co-worker – “well, I won’t be here cause I have kids so I’m going to be home with them.” And BAM!
We had already easily come to the reality that this Thanksgiving was going to be different this year. But my mind took off on her comment. I couldn’t help think “well, we’ll be here tomorrow. But that’s ok – I’m ok with that.” And then I remembered that family that I visited once in oncology. They were here with their son for their 3rd 30-day treatment stay. 30 days for a 3rd time. And I thought “I wonder if one of those families showed up this week. If so, they will spend Thanksgiving here, and then Christmas.”
And self-pity or pity for those families is probably where one’s mind might go. But no. Amazingly, what I felt was the most thankful that I can ever recall on any previous Thanksgiving.
I know that Carson will get better and we’ll go home in a few days. And we’ll put a bow on yet another hospital stay. Life will go back to our normal. But just steps from me, hidden in rooms with closed doors and sleeping children were families who were losing their babies during this week. Or they were battling cancer with little hope in sight. Or hoping their child would recover from the heart surgery – clinging to every number on that screen that tells you they are getting better or getting worse. And I find myself so incredibly – thankful.
Truth is, our son has a diagnosis that has no cure. If you get it as an adult, your life expectancy is 2 years. That’s with current treatment. Fortunately, things are a bit different for children who are essentially born with pulmonary hypertension. And there are new medications coming out and on the horizon. We believe and pray there will be a cure. But right now we battle to ensure he doesn’t get worse and he has the best life he can have. And I have faith that God will provide a cure or directly cure him and Carson will live a long life and have children and grandchildren of his own.
So I know all of that – I sit in a hospital room on Thanksgiving – and I am thankful.
From C11 PICU, Children’s Health Dallas – Happy Thanksgiving. It’s one I’ll remember for a long time.