Sick Kids

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.




  1. Jen, I don’t understand that feeling as a parent, but do understand it as a sibling. A feeling of bittersweetness and sadness that I can’t be there anymore in that experience. To tell you the truth, I have that feeling everytime I enter Bloorview, Sick Kids, other hospitals we frequented and places I take the kids for their enjoyment. I appreciate this post!!!

  2. I’m so sorry to hear that but I thank you for sharing and allowing us to understand this process. It makes perfect sense to me that you would have these feelings — and that they would also be a shock. Hugs to you xo

  3. God, your writing is so gorgeous. I know you must hear this all the time but you write in a way that really gets at the heart. Here I am, tearing up, again! Heading over to order your book now.

  4. Dearest Jennifer,

    You tell anyone who will listen that we are a person of logic and reason, but the truth is, “Your intellect is born and sustained solely through the power of love.” For, you will cry your tears, fall to your kness, and yell in rage; yet, you will not break nor ever yield. For, Owen has left every mother and child in need with a gift: “His greatest champion.”


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