medical side effects

A Sense of Conviction
February 19th, 2010

This is the part of the blog where I tell you that IEP was a NICU baby.
Because it was painful and because it is private, I will not provide many details except to offer this:  After 39 weeks of the world’s most routine pregnancy, IEP suffered head trauma during the final stages of his delivery.  That head trauma resulted in a follow-up CT scan, which resulted in a frightening diagnosis, which resulted in his transfer (by helicopter) from the hospital where he was delivered to a local children’s hospital when he was just hours old, so that he could be treated by teams of neuro specialists. 
Our experience was not nearly as dire or dramatic as many other NICU families’.  But it is ours.  And for that reason it has affected GAP and me every day since our son was born.  Some its effects are obvious and tangible, like the months of follow up appointments IEP has had since he came home.  Other effects are subtler and more discrete, like the way in which moments from that day creep into our minds unannounced and remind us of how terrifying it all was. 
I tell you all of this now because this experience is rolling back into our lives in a concrete way and on a regular basis. 
Last fall I spent many weeks grappling with the orbit of my life.  More specifically, I felt that the orbit was too local; local to me, my family, and my friends.  Not to discount their place in my life – they are my biggest priorities.  But I am fortunate.  I have a happy and healthy family (both nuclear and extended).  I have a lovely home and good job.  I want for nothing.  And in living a life that is so blessed, I felt remiss that its benefits so rarely reached beyond the circle of my own people.  I felt that everything I did had a very short radius back to me. 
I spent a great deal of time soul searching over this topic.  I shared my frustrations and concerns with my husband, sister, parents, and a couple of bloggy friends.  I didn’t want to just “pick a cause” so that I could go through the motions of filling a void.  I wanted to add something to my life that was both valuable to others and meaningful to me.  After several weeks it finally occurred to me.  Children’s Hospital is a place very dear to me.  It is the place that healed my son.  It is the place that gave us comfort and confidence when his new and fragile life was in its capable hands.  And it is a place where I can offer a unique perspective as a woman who has walked its hallways as a mother.

This is how it came to be that in November, after a relatively rigorous application process, I was accepted as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital.  On Wednesday night I spent three hours there participating in Volunteer Orientation.  And sometime in early March I will work my first volunteer shift.

During the orientation session we went through important but dry topics like HIPAA compliance.  We learned about the scope of our responsibilities.  We learned how to properly put on a gown, mask, and gloves if we are called to visit a patient in isolation.  We walked past patient rooms where some kids were being rocked by their parents, but others were alone in their beds. 

One boy in particular is burned in my mind.  He is probably slightly older than IEP.  He was sitting in his crib in hospital pajamas, playing with a rattle, and his cheeks were flushed bright pink.  His family wasn’t there.  He watched intently as our tour group passed by and I felt an ache deep in my gut as I was forced to keep walking, rather than turn on my heels back to his bedside.         

The evening concluded with a placement assessment wherein I met with the volunteer coordinator to discuss my interests within the hospital.  She asked why I wanted to volunteer and I told her about our experiences there and my desire to help others whose paths I’d once walked myself. 

I left the hospital with a strong sense of conviction.  I feel good about this.  Not eager.  Not excited.  Not happy.  But good.  In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever started something new in my life with so few doubts or questions.  I know this will be hard.  I know it will break my heart.  But I know that I can help and that this is the right thing for me to do.    

When I got home Wednesday night GAP and I ate dinner together and I told him all the details from my evening.  Then I made a new batch of baby food for my sweet boy.  Then I walked up to his room and leaned over the side of his crib, watching his curled-up body sigh with sleep.  I laid a blanket over him, ran my hand along the back of his head, and walked out. 

When I got in bed I started my prayer and gratitude journal for Lent.  There are many things I am thankful for.  The first two things on the list were:

Children’s Hospital
The fact that IEP isn’t there

14 Responses to “A Sense of Conviction”

  1. Sarah Says:

    My body is shivers and my tears about to spring forth. There is something missing in my own life. I feel this great, driving need to do MORE, give MORE. And not just for my family, but for a larger purpose. I want to feel that GOOD that you describe. I keep telling myself that I have no time–but that won’t change. And I have a little bit of fear and shyness about stepping into something new–but I know I’d be okay once I got there.

    (Wow, I can’t believe I just shared so much about that… ha!)

    Bravo! I love that you are doing this and can’t wait to hear more about it once you start.

  2. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Gale, I am so sorry that you had to go through your NICU experience and I am so happy to know that your little guy is happy and healthy today. I applaud you for returning to the hospital, for offering yourself, your experience-honed wisdom and goodness, to help other little creatures and other families who are going through something so scary. I think it is a huge sign of your heart and fortitude that you are able to go back. I think so many of us would run from the experience, and avoid stirring memories at all costs. Instead, you are embracing a place that helped you and helping others. And so so wonderful that your volunteer experience is already making you appreciate your bounty at home.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it wasn’t exactly easy.

  3. Anne Says:

    You go girl. Seriously…I’m so proud of you (can a little sister be proud of her big sister??) for doing this. It’s one thing to be grateful…it’s another thing to give back. I think all of us could give more. Bravo to you for doing it.

  4. Meg Says:

    I got goosebumps while reading your post — moving and well-said. Wishing you and your family only the best — and major kudos for taking the initiative to reach out and help others. Many of us have the best of intentions but get caught up in the day-to-day… sometimes it’s hard to remember how much good we could do, if only we would try. That’s a personal lesson I’m pulling from your post right now!

  5. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    That’s wonderful! Miss M. was a NICU baby, too. Those days were so hard, watching her in the little cooker-thingy, with tubes up her nose. Having to put on all the special garb to even touch her.

    You are doing a big and terrific thing. Good for you.

  6. A l'il bit squishy Says:

    No one will ever say that they were loved too much or that they loved too much. Thank you for finding the time in your life and the love in your heart to do this. It should feel good, just as it will for those children who will experience your heart while in the hospital. Thank you.

  7. Eva Says:

    Simply beautiful, Gale. Thank you for sharing this with us. It truly is a miracle every time a healthy baby is born – or modern medicine saves a life in dire circumstances. Good doctors are a blessing. So glad to hear your little boy is healthy now.

    With volunteering – or charitable giving or serving on a nonprofit board – it’s so important to find something you feel in your heart. It’s not a decision to make with your head. You’re right: it will be hard and will break your heart. But you will do so much good for strangers, for parents going through the same fear you once felt. The loving role you play will stay with families for a long time.

  8. casual friday every day Says:

    What an incredible, heart wrenching post. You’ve moved me.


  9. becca Says:

    I’m so happy that what started as such a scary beginning is now in the past. And I applaud you for what you’re moving ahead with. My brother in law is a Pediatric Oncologist at one of the top Children’s hospitals in the country. He proudly took us on a tour there last time we visited and I had to leave. I could NOT see so much sadness. I struggled to keep my composure as he introduced us to his little patients all with terrible diseases running through them. These little kids were all so unbelievably strong and I was not. I felt so guilty. So sad. I don’t know how my BIL does it but there is no one in the entire world that I respect more. And I have the same respect for you. It’s amazing. It takes a certain, special person to do that job and I’m so sad I’m not one of them because it would feel so good to give in that way. What you’re embarking on is truly wonderfull.

  10. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Sorry to be so late to this post, but couldn’t move on without joining in the chorus of commenters applauding your decision to give back to Children’s Hospital. And I love the tie-in to your gratitude journal. I admire the connectedness you seem to carry with you in life.

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