Monday, October 11, 2010

A cafeteria you don't want to have to dine in

I wasn't going to blog while we are in the hospital.  I figured I would save it for after we were done.

But I changed my mind.

It was something I saw in the cafeteria that I saw tonight.  It seems only right.

If you don't follow Facebook, then you might not know that the Boy's health has taken a turn for the worse, and he was admitted last Thursday for uncontrolled abdominal pain.  I have been here most of the time while Mr. Fun deals with his work commitments.

As a matter of fact, we have seen each other face to face for about 3 hours in almost the last week.  No joke.  And neither of us have been out of town.  :(

We were scheduled to be released today.  Bags were packed.  Sock and shoes were on.  And then, after two scrambled eggs after four days of zero food and drink, the stomach pains came back.  They figured if he didn't eat for four days that maybe his digestive system would calm down.  It did.

Want to see a person who hasn't eaten in four days get his first snack....?

Two scrambled eggs.  Who knew they could be so painful?  His stay has now been extended for at least two or three more days (which in hospital time is like three weeks) for scope and more figure it out time.

But that isn't why I wanted to write this blog.

If you have never spent time in a children's hospital, it is a very different animal than a regular hospital. 

When you are the parent, you are banded with a bright orange band, like you have just paid admission to an amusement park.

There is a story behind every one of those bands.  They tell a story without saying a word.  Only the legal guardians get them.  One wrist band a dad I saw in the elevator tonight said to me, "I am so tired.  See how worn I am?  I have been on this dad's wrist a very very long time."  His band was so worn that it was half orange and half white.

There is an unspoken club you enter when you get that wristband.  You are sort of a VIP.  You get to fast pass through certain areas.  When you have been here long enough, your mind begins to file grown ups you see around.  Orange bands equal knowledge of how they feel.  Pain.  Fatigue.  And you know they have cried a time or two.  You feel a bond to them and it is acceptable to ask them how long have they been here.  We never ask each other what is wrong with our children because everyone with that worn wristband knows the elevator ride isn't long enough to answer anyway.

The other grown ups are just guests.  Adults have to show photo ID to get in to the patients area, and they get a sticker.  The Girl said it was weird to wear a photo of herself on herself.  Those adults are visitors, who you know are there for a little while...maybe a couple hours that day.  That is why they look so clean and bright-eyed.  Their faces also look super concerned.

Orange band faces look different.  We don't have concern on our face.  We don't have the energy to show our concern.  We are past feeling that kind of concern.  Our concern runs deeper than what you see on our faces.

Our faces are tired.  Sunken.  And if just the right person asks us at just the right moment how we really are, we cry.  Especially if our kiddo (that is what they are called here) isn't around.

This hospital is ranked as one of the top in the country.  Our family is blessed to live 20 miles away.  We are blessed and we know it.  Some days that makes a difference.  And some days it doesn't.

One fabulous piece here is a really yummy cafeteria.  Reasonably priced.  Good for a snack. 

No matter how you spin it, it is still a children's hospital cafeteria.  You are still eating in this reasonably-priced place for a reason.  A sad reason.

I have eaten at lots of cafeterias and cafes around the world.  This one has it's own feel.

The doctors at the bar that looks out the window.  They don't talk to anyone.  They eat fast and they eat alone.

The nurses usually eat in groups of two or three.  They look clean too, and have cheery looking smocks.  Halloween print is all the rage right now.

Guests like us eat alone or with their guests with the white stickers.  They talk quietly.  You can tell the ones who have been here a while.  Some don't even remember to wear their shoes.  Or bras.  (tmi)

No one is working at a lap top.  No one is talking on their cell phone.  It is like a quiet place to gather your thoughts.  Most of the time, patients aren't in there.  It is our special time-out place.

I ate alone tonight.  My family scattered throughout different parts of the city tonight.  My boy passed out from his pain meds in his bed.  He doesn't even know I had left his side.  I bought myself some salad, salty potato chips (outlawed at home) and some hot chocolate. 

There was only one other couple in the cafe tonight with me.  A mom with an orange band.  And who I am guessing was her boyfriend, because he only had a white sticker.  The ICU sticker.  No good there.  No one wants the ICU sticker.

Mom was eating her roast pork when she sort of threw down her fork and started to cry.  Boyfriend White Sticker slide over a few seats and wrapped his arms around her.  She cried. He cried.  Which of course made me want to cry. 

It was very poignant what I witnessed as I tried to hide in my salad bowl with beets and raspberry dressing.  I felt like an intruder.  What I noticed about Boyfriend was that he had a fire fighter sweatshirt.  This is a guy who knew about hard life experiences. He whispered quietly in her ear, and her crying eventually stopped. 

She didn't looked concerned.  Her soul lives somewhere deeper than that.  She lives in anguish.  How do I know?  Because I have lived there, too.   I know the look.

When you are the parent of a chronically ill child, you always live with the illness.  I have blogged about it--this stupid virus he caught.  I have cursed it, I have cried about it, and I have survived it.  I have chronic illness.  Watching your child live with it is way harder than living with it inside of you.  I feel like I can say that because I am doing both.  I hate these univited guests of illness.

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for us, loved us, visited us, fed us, and thought for our concern. We feel it and appreciate it.  You are like our firemen in our cafeteria of life, wrapping your arm around us and whispering quietly in our ears.  Thank you.