both of my parents work in hospitals. when i was younger i used to go to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) where my mom worked and rock those sweet, itty bitty babies. a few years ago i realized that i needed something other than music to put myself into. the business part of what i do was overshadowing the creative part. and worse, the receiving part of me was overshadowing the giving part.
in february of 2008 i started volunteering at vanderbilt children's hospital. i went in for my first interview wanting to rock babies on the NICU since that's where my experience was. i left as a new volunteer on 6A; the hematology and oncology unit. cancer. cancer? you've got to be kidding me. cancer? KIDS with cancer? i thought the child life office was crazy for placing me on that unit. turns out they knew exactly what they were doing.
the week i was slated to start volunteering i was terrified. i'm not really one to get nervous but i was so scared i thought i was going to be sick. i felt grossly under qualified and inexperienced. what if those little bald heads made me sad and i cried in front of them? what if i couldn't do anything to make them forget they were in the hospital for a few hours? what if no one wanted to play battleship or paint butterflies and i didn't have anything else to offer? what if i got attached to someone? what if they didn't get better? what if?
three and a half years of wednesday afternoons later and those "what ifs" aren't really "what ifs" anymore. they're definite. i have cried. i have failed to distract. i have gotten attached. i have seen those sweet kids leave the hospital both of the two possible ways.
there have been days that i didn't think i could go back. that i couldn't walk into a room to check on a new patient without picturing the last time i hugged an old patient in that very place. and then there are days like yesterday that are so full of happy i don't think my heart can hold it all.
i arrived at the hospital wednesday and heard that one of my favorite little girls who i spent a lot of time with last year was back for a week. she wasn't back on my unit but was on the 8th floor instead. i beelined for her room, poked my head around the corner of the door frame and said her name. she smiled her ear to ear smile, BOLTED for the door and nearly knocked me over with a hug so big that if i never got another one it would be ok.
she sat on my lap and we talked for a half an hour while the nurses and her mom were going over her discharge papers. we marveled over how fast and curly her hair had grown back in. she told me all about the vacation she finally got to take and she showed me her latest battle wound from surgery. we walked to the elevator hand in hand and she gave me another hug before i got off on my floor. i turned around and waved. she waved back. the elevator doors closed. and that was it.
it's a weird feeling to know that you probably won't ever see someone again. it's an amazing feeling to know that you were just given a gift. a thirty minute gift that i will carry with me for a very, very long time.
to the big guy upstairs - thank you for breathing a little life back in to me this week. please take care of that little doodlebug. she's a keeper. love, megan.