Sending a Message
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011
Written by Tina Paccione, Director of Development
In the weeks prior to winter break, my youngest of three children awoke to a swollen knee. For two days prior she had been hobbling around, but definitely more so when I was in her eye sight. She’d even sit right down and refuse to walk saying “I can’t” until she was distracted by a passer-by who made her forget her “boycott”. She’d even walk upstairs when the thoughts of “carry me, Mommy, my leg can’t move” left her mind.
So you can imagine my relief, yes, I was relieved, to see a reason why she was struggling with her walking and experiencing pain that seemed to be there only when she saw me.
“Ok, this deserves a trip to the doctor”, I thought, but where do I begin…her pediatrician, an orthopedist or is this just something that can be iced down? Some friendly advice by a First Aid instructor and off we went to the pediatrician…then to the lab for blood work…then to the Orthopedist…then to the emergency room. Each referral kept taking us down a path that had never entered my mind. It was a swollen knee! How many of those have I had in my life and at most it was iced and wrapped in gauze only to be sent back to school!
So here we were in an overflow room at the ER. Obviously, we picked a very busy time to come and we shared our space with a lovely young lady who was a student at Rutger’s University and her mom. At first it seemed awkward to share this space, but I’d find out later on just how re-assuring it was to have company at a time when the prognosis took us on a roller coaster ride.
We were told it would take about 45 minutes to run her blood work. It actually took 4 hours to get the results which led to a knee tap then surgery at midnight followed by 2 more days in the children’s hospital.
During our stay in both the emergency room and in the pediatric ward, I was reminded of the value of the generosity of both strangers and friends. While in the emergency room, after 3 hours of waiting, I was beginning to second guess the direction that our doctors were taking us. Was all of this necessary? Should I be asking for a second opinion? Is the knee tap and possible surgery necessary? I was beginning to feel as scared as my daughter. Just when I thought I couldn’t hold the tears back, a nurse or resident came in with a stuffed elephant to help my daughter pass the time. She refused to look at any hospital staff or acknowledge their presence since each time one came in, she was either pricked by a needle or her knee was bent and straightened several times causing more pain. As I held the elephant I suddenly felt the strength of an elephant and was able to be the strong pillar that my daughter needed. I had learned that every child who comes through the ER receives a stuffed animal that was hand-made and donated through the hospital’s foundation. The gift from a stranger became one of the most meaningful acts of kindness that I had witnessed in quite some time.
As we moved from recovery after surgery to our own room, I was once again emotionally overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers. We were greeted many times by a Child Life Specialist who helps children understand why they are in the hospital and what is happening during their stay in an age appropriate manner. Part of their role is also to provide activities, both in-room and in a playroom, to engage the children. We received a package with crayons, books, and other fun things to do. We later received a hand-made quilt and a doll to color; both of which were greatly appreciated by both of us.
During this time, I had also received texts and phone messages stating that we’re being thought of. I never realized how empowering these messages can be at a time when my world came to a complete stop to focus on one child. How many times have I thought of a friend who was going through something and thought that they’d be too busy to read my message or that I’d be bothering them. What an eye-opening experience to know that any message showing support and encouragement can be the catapult that allows that person to handle the situation with more strength and grace.
The moment that evoked tears and will stay with me always is when we were delivered a bag full of cards, pictures and notes from fellow students from school. As we read them and showed them to our three-year old patient, it was the first time she smiled in 4 days. She struggled to sit up and to stay focused. When she showed fatigue, we took a break only to be told by her to keep going. She wanted to make sure every one of them was read and acknowledged.
The generosity of others is such a powerful tool when dealing with stressful situations. I am grateful for the volunteers who don’t get to see the smiles that they create and for the messages of friends and family who may not truly know the emotional lift they cause. I will never take for granted the power of a simple message telling someone they are in my thoughts.