I was a panelist at a symposium yesterday at The Hospital for Sick Children, in Toronto. I was very much looking forward to participating as it merged two significant areas of my life: social media and patient advocacy. It all went well; I felt useful and learned a few things.
However, I had completely underestimated – or rather, didn’t anticipate at all – how difficult it would be to return to the hospital itself. I hadn’t been there for over a year; certainly not at all since Owen died. As I walked the halls, ate lunch in the cafeteria, visited old friends on the wards – I felt like an outsider looking in. I hadn’t ever minded going to the hospital for appointments – it was familiar and friendly. Where our peeps were. Overnights and procedures were a different story altogether – but it was a love/hate relationship that was more love than hate. And now? I was just passing through.
It all felt a bit dreamlike. Sad and full of reminders: Owen used to roll through these halls. We used to look out that window. That’s where we always sat to watch the glass-encased elevators. There’s the store where we bought his feeding supplies.
I awoke from the haze long enough to assist a young mother, who was struggling to position her daughter over a toilet in the public washroom. The little girl had had surgery on her leg and was crying, her new box of purple sparkle ponies offering little relief from the discomfort of the cold surfaces and internal pressures. I didn’t do much but it felt good to be involved; the mom carried her daughter to the change table and I wheeled her chair over and gathered her things.
As her mother adjusted her clothing the girl eyed me suspiciously as I stood by, holding her box of ponies. I placed the box on the change table near her head, moving slowly like I had been told to drop my weapon. I withdrew my hand and bent down to her eye level, keeping a respectful distance. I held her gaze and said softly, “I really like your ponies.” I wasn’t sure if I had crossed a line with her or not – she didn’t respond right away. She looked at me for another short moment, then at the ponies. Then back again. A big slow grin crossed her face. “Thanks! I like them too!”
It was enough to do me in. I left the washroom and took the elevator down to P3, my usual parking floor. I sat in the car for a while, and cried.