I met her there, on the transplant floor (liver and kidney) where she sat, her eyes full of a sadness I couldn’t quite place, next to her son. The second of her three children to lay in a bed just like that one, all suffering the same rare genetic liver disease. The guilt was written all over her face – she hadn’t known that she and her husband were carriers for this disease – it hadn’t occurred to her to be tested. Not until later – much later, after her first son required a liver transplant.
I had her during my clinicals that week, so I spent a good deal of time with her. They lived in some BumFuck Southern town, temporarily moving to Chicago where the premiere doctor who treated this particular liver disease practiced. She and her husband and their other kids, moved, where so many do, into the Ronald McDonald house attached to the hospital I’d been volunteered to rotate through.
A student nurse then, the horror of a hospital – a big, beautiful, wonderful, cheerful hospital – that treated only children, her eyes haunted me long after I’d stopped being their nurse.
Their son, he was three at the time, I think, and while he was bloated, sorta like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka, he bore enough of a resemblance to my own tiny son that I couldn’t help but see him every time I administered medication or checked his vitals.
We walked past the house a couple of times. Visiting the dialysis center. Other offsite clinical stuffs. It was there. The logo was similar to that of my most favorite fast-food joint – McDonald’s – and I thought, each time, of the families who had to live there, while they waited to see if their children could be cured.
It was an honor to have been placed there – Children’s Memorial Hospital – and I was one of six lucky recipients.
In a twist of fate no one could’ve foreseen, my daughter, not even a glimmer in my eye at that time, had her neurosurgery at a branch of the very same hospital. She wore the same gown that all of my patients back then did, making me feel as though I’d somehow walked into an alternate universe.
I’m close enough now to Children’s Memorial that I didn’t have to stay at the Ronald McDonald house when she was born so sick. Or when she had to be readmitted for her surgery.
But I never forgot.
I never forgot what an amazing place the Ronald McDonald House was. When I think of it even today, I am reminded of the woman with the sick boys, who harkened from BumFuck, USA, living in the Great Big City of Chicago while she awaited her son’s fate.
My friend Paula, another transplant mom, who I happened to meet through this very blog (who also works with me now, on Band Back Together), began something a couple of months ago. She inspired me.
She’s been collecting pop-tops to donate to the Ronald McDonald house (not the same one that I’ve been to). She inspired me to do the same.
And now I ask you, My Pranksters, to consider helping me with this.
McDonald’s Corporate HQ is about thirty minutes from my house and I plan to collect as many pop-tabs as I can to donate to their charity.
If you’d like to join me, (PLEASE?!), you can collect these pop-tabs and drop them off at your OWN Ronald McDonald House, or you can send them directly to me.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org for my address.
Time to use The Internet for some good.
P.S. If I get enough pop-tabs, I will totally do something random for you on a dare. Like go out in public in jeggings or something. YOU PICK THE DARE.
Also: if you’re participating, go ahead and link up, yo!
On Band Back Together, as we reach out to try and work toward our non-profit status, we’re working our asses off on putting together a rad auction. I think I’m donating like 20 things to it.
Here are the details if you want to join us. In exchange, you’ll get some awesome promotion and feel like you did something rad for the community.
Button code is here:
<a href=”http://auction.bandbacktogether.com”><img src=”http://i771.photobucket.com/albums/xx353/designsbyprincessjenn/BB2GAuction.jpg” width=”200″ height=”200″ border=”0″>
And shit, I’ll arm wrestle you for some of the already-donated stuffs.
P.S. If you just want to join in on the auction once it goes live, I’ll be adding details as they come.
I sat there in the lobby of the surgical waiting room, reading the kind words my Pranksters sent me that morning – feeling almost as though they were right there, beside me, as I waited. Would she live? Would she die?
No one knew. And those closest to me knew better than to say, “it’ll be okay.” Because a) it’s a bullshit statement and 2) they didn’t know any more than I did whether or not that would be the case.
A little stoned, perhaps, on Ativan, I began to rummage through the bag I’d packed. I didn’t know what one was supposed to pack in times like these – a word search, my phone charger, my breast pump, my own tissues (my face was already torn up from the hospital-grade tissues).
That’s what I brought.
It was there, as I pecked out a quick tweet on my i(can’tfucking)Phone, “She’s back in surgery now.” As I went to put my phone away, she showed up.
It was the surgical assistant, completely suited up in surgical gear. If I’d had more than half a second to panic, I’d have begun – I’d just given up my precious daughter, signing documents allowing the neurosurgeon to cut open her brain, take out some spare bits, then put her back together with a skull implant. The surgery was supposed to be 6-9 hours long – seeing her like that so soon after we’d kissed our girl goodbye, that should have been scary.
She carried a bag with her – a bio-hazard, which she held in front of her, obviously trying to give it to me.
The confusion set in as the tears (again) poured from my eyes: was this a bit of my daughter?
She spoke, “We gave her a haircut. I wanted you to have this for her baby book.”
I took it, turning it over in my hand, as I wondered if it was the last bit of my daughter I’d hold, as she strode back into the OR where my daughter was unconsciously waiting.
Not knowing what else to do, I shoved it into my hospital bag.
I’ve never taken it out. In fact, I’ve never touched that bag. It sits in my closet, still full of whatever I’d packed, while horrified, panicked that I’d been offering my daughter up for slaughter.
A lifetime later, my daughter wiggles and bounces her way into the room, chock full of giggles and smiles, playing a game with her Lego guys, then “cooking” me a breakfast out of her play food.
Why yes I want green beans with my eggs, Mimi, how kind of you to offer.
I see it.
The wispy locks of baby hair are finally growing out, her big girl hair filling in underneath. The new curls are thick underneath it all, giving her a properly impish look.
But the baby hair, it looks…well…weird. It’s clearly time to cut it off.
So I grab a pair of scissors, beg The Guy On My Couch, Who Happens To Be Sitting ON The Couch, to help me out with her – just keep her occupied, I ask. This isn’t the sort of haircut I give the boys – I’m just lopping off the long bits as she chats with The Guy On My Couch.
He too, I learn as I listen to them talk, would love some fake green beans with his pretend eggs.
Soon, I have a pile of longer blondish hairs. Not willing to part with those memories just yet, I find a baggie and carefully place those long strands inside, where they will, one day, be put into her baby book along with her first haircut.
And as she bops and whirls away, haircut over, she looks over her shoulder and positively beams at me, her old eyes somehow comprehending that this five minute stretch on the couch was, for some reason unbeknownst to her, very big deal.
Her curls shimmering, catching the light just-so, giving her the appearance of having an actual halo, I am reminded; humbled, by how far we have come.
Both of us.