The girls and I had to make the trek to Cincinnati Children’s hospital yesterday. Maya’s doctor’s ordered yet another ultrasound due to her elevated liver enzymes. So I tossed both kids in the car and make the hour-plus long drive to Cincy. The appointment was at 2:30, which meant we left our house at 1pm. There was construction through Dayton and more in Cincinnati. (Hey it’s Ohio, road construction that goes on forever and ever is part and parcel of living here – along with weird weather patterns and mullets.) I grumbled the whole way, as driving through construction is not high on my list of favorite things to do. I grumbled when we got off the highway because the exit we take was screwed up due to construction/repaving/who knows what. I grumbled when we entered the subterranean parking garage because they were working on it and parking was limited.
The appointment itself was fairly straightforward and took about an hour. The tech was (as usual) very understanding and knowledgeable. She turned on a movie (The Little Mermaid) and chatted with us about various topics. Afterward, Maya was hungry, as she was not allowed to eat or drink anything for four hours prior to the ultrasound and that is a LONG time for her to go without food. So we decided to go the cafeteria and get her some lunch…and what do you know….more construction. The seating area in the hospital cafeteria is very large but the vast majority of it was closed off, leaving very limited seating. But we managed to find a table for Maya to devour her chicken tenders, Powerade, applesauce and chips. Then we had to make a stop at the pharmacy in the hospital because of a recent medication change and (of course) the new medication is not readily available at other pharmacies. (Our local pharmacy told me they couldn’t get the med in until July 9 and we couldn’t wait that long.)
The lady behind the counter at the pharmacy told us that the medication needed mixed and it would take about 20 minutes before it was ready. By this point it was after 4pm. All I could think about was the fact that rush hour in Cincy starts at 3:15. The highway is completely gridlocked from that time til about 6:30, Monday through Friday. And after we emerged from that mess we were going to be driving though Dayton’s rush hour. Joy. So the girls and I got comfortable on one of the couches in the main concourse. We did some talking. As we were talking, we also did some people watching.
We watched as a mother pushed her small child around in a wheelchair, attached to an IV pole and a feeding tube.
We watched as a nurse pushed a teenager in her wheelchair who had IV ports in both arms and was completely bald and wrapped in a heavy blanket.
We watched as a jaundiced infant was being pushed in a stroller by her parents.
We watched as the mother of a child who had serious physical and mental disabilities push her child’s specialized chair up and down the concourse, and watched the child smile when the sun’s rays brushed her face.
We watched as parents who were wearing the special ICU lanyards walked by, discussing their child’s treatment.
Almost everyone who walked by us, whether it was a patient or an employee of the hospital, smiled at Maya. Some of them even stopped to chat or compliment her on her shirt or the braid in her hair.
As we sat and waited for Maya’s meds to be mixed, I realized that being bothered by rush hour traffic wasn’t really that big of a deal. After all, we were allowed to leave. Many of the patients we saw were undergoing serious treatments that would require weeks or even months of living in the hospital. But I didn’t see despair in those faces. I saw hope. I saw peace. I saw happiness. And I realized that we were lucky – and by “we,” I mean all the patients at Cincinnati Children’s. It is a place offers more than just top-notch medical care. It offers hope. And for the parents of a child who has a life-threatening disease or condition, that hope is something that you must cling to in order to get through each hour of every day. I remember feeling that hope as we went through Maya’s illness and I remember feeling grateful for all of the time I got to spend with her, even when I was afraid that the outcome might not be good.
The drive home took us two hours, most of which was spent sitting on I-75 or creeping through construction zones. But this time, I did not grumble or complain. I simply listened to the sound of my daughters laughter and singing from the backseat and thought about how lucky we were – not only for receiving the gift of life from her transplant, but for the gift of hope, which is something that keeps us going still today.