Thursday, December 3, 2009
Lessons in Courage
If I had to choose one thing that is most fulfilling about my career, I suppose it would be the amazing life lessons that I've learned from kids. And there's no shortage of those lessons -- they keep coming.
Last week I visited two spirited and courageous kids at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The first was Maddox, an energetic three-year-old with a spine disorder. You'd never know the way this guy bounds around in his wheelchair that he also has a metal halo attached to his skull with multiple screws. It serves as a traction device to help straighten out his spine -- and it seems to be working. We laughed and sang songs and played instruments, and he hammed it up for the camera. Pure joy.
Maddox exemplifies one of my favorite things about kids: They're usually pretty good about living in the moment. You can see it in their cherub faces as you walk the halls of any pediatric ward. They're not worried about the past or the future. Their heads aren't full of the worldly stresses that weigh heavily on us adults. Their "carpe diem" attitudes seem to scream, "Forget about my bald head, let's play! So what if I'm strapped into this chair for a few months, I've got wheels! OK, so my body is like a pin cushion from all the needle pokes, but do you want to hear a knock-knock joke?" I can't say I'd be very "present" (or pleasant) if I were in the same situation.
The next girl I visited was Elise. She's three, too, and is being treated for Leukemia. She'd been running a fever of about 105 for a few days. Yes, that's right, 105 degrees!! As you can imagine, she was a bit sluggish. She was asleep when I came in the room. When her mother woke her, she turned to me and grinned. We sang a few songs, and she asked for the "Slug Bug" song. Up went her hands, shaking them crazy everywhere, as she giggled! Then she rolled over and fell back to sleep. If I had a fever that high, I don't think I'd want to see some goofy dude with a guitar. But, not Elise. Her mom said she's been talking about it ever since.
Please remember all those kids who will spend the holidays in the hospital. Remember, too, their parents who will be standing, sitting, pacing, and sleeping anxiously by their sides. And please remember their health care providers who skillfully and tenderly encourage their healing.
I'll leave you with a great quote that's on the wall of the lobby of Children's Mercy Hospital...
"Skill cannot take the place of sympathy and understanding, for science without heart is ugly and pitiless." Dr. Katherine Berry Richardson