Big Pupi's back with the badge:
On Wednesday my mom and I returned to work at the hospital. I was excited, perhaps a little too much so once again, but all that spunk wound up being a blessing because this trip would be a little more difficult than the last. Sure, there were more kids this time which for me meant a lot more hoops to jump through and many more spins to be spun. But I can muster energy for days and making a few extra leaps through the air took little out of me. Emotionally however... emotionally this particular trip to the hospital was exhausting.
For the most part the kids were new this time. Out of the 6 human pups only one boy was without tubes and wires, machines that beep and tall poles with bags of fluids dripping and dangling like ripe fruit. There was a brightness about this boy - something shining and energetic. He was quick to raise a hand and offer himself as The Special Assistant in any manor of tricks and games, and his smile would stretch clear across his face sending his light into the room. I've discovered that little boys tend to take to the beast with the mohawk rather quickly, and I soon became his favorite. It was a good thing that I started work with him because he certainly put me through my paces and took the edge off my energy reserves, enabling me to sit still for the first time all morning. Whew. That was some warm-up.
My friend from my last visit was wheeled into the room. The scar on her scalp was healing wonderfully and the stitches had been removed. We were ready for another round of physical therapy and both her parents were in attendance this time wielding cameras and cheers of encouragement. But it was not to be a success story as it had been on the last visit. Unable to keep herself awake the girl slept hunched over in the chair, only to have ice pressed upon her back which sent her arching into fits of anger and frustration. And then she would sleep. They had been talking about me for 2 weeks, her mom said. For fourteen days she waited, and when the day came for her routine to be brightened by a canine visitor her brain betrayed her and left her sleeping. The lucky mohawk went untouched and no amount of kisses could get a response. I missed my friend and hoped for a better visit next time. But that's another fourteen days away.
My mom and I have discovered that there is usually one patient that remains in your thoughts long after visiting hours are over. There is the memory of one person that is haunting and sticks with you like a shadow. On this visit my shadow came in the form of a little girl who appeared as to have been pulled from the pages of a nursery rhyme. Blond curls pinned back just so. Eyes blue and dark. She was about 6 I would guess, dressed in a hospital gown which hid a mass of tubes reaching into her like so many tentacles. Three feet behind her at all times was her pole with her bags of fluids and her very own relentless beeping machine. Her mother carried with her a bucket for the child to spit up in whenever she needed - which was often.
The child was lovely but subdued. Deep behind her eyes lied a person who in her youth was forced to understand all that had been brought upon her and all that was going on around her. There was a physical pain and it was visible to anyone looking at her. It was like interacting with a person who hid deep within a cave.
And yet she walked. With me. She insisted upon it.
We attached my extra leash and she grabbed it tight and short. We pushed slowly on making a lap around the room, her mother keeping the pole and bags in tow. She grew tired quickly and her blue eyes darkened even more. The girl climbed back into a chair and leaned over her bucket. I leapt into the seat next to her and remained there as she rubbed the lucky mohawk and stroked my ears. I bent my body in such an impossible manor that allowed me to expose my belly, then I sat and pressed my side hard against the arm of the chair so she could reach me easily as she stroked me with the back of her hand.
She was tired.
A type of tired that most of us will never understand - and be grateful for that. It went beyond a physical exhaustion and the only way to describe the depths of the condition is to say that it had infringed upon her soul. She was just so tired. And so was her mother.
There is something that so many of the mothers we see with their children in the hospital have in common. They are thin, frail, bluish behind the skin. Eyes sunken, broken, lips dry. They cheer and speak happily and make pleasant conversation with the volunteers. They see their children perk up if only for few moments when the dogs come to play but none of this seems to override the sound of the machines beeping beeping forever beeping.
A nurse turns the machine towards her, writes down some numbers and leaves the room.
There was sadness in this visit. Sadness that should never be allowed into a room with a child. Sadness that invades everyone in its presence and sticks for days. Mom and I could understand it fully even though we knew nothing about the patients' conditions - we are not allowed to ask. It sits so heavily upon your shoulders and it makes you just so tired.
We will go back in two weeks. We will go back and pray that we see some of the same faces and feel as though a weight has been lifted. I will go back and spin all the spins to be spun and offer the mohawk to outstretched palms. You go back because that's what you do after a rough day and you maintain the belief that there is good in the world and just maybe you can contribute to just a little bit of it.
My dearest blogging folks~
I apologize for the general gloominess of this post. I will leave you with the lesson learned from my super brief time as a therapy dog:
Life is about perspective. Take stock in what you have and what you hold dear. As the economy sits precariously on the edge of ruin, the job market shrinks its waistline and you worry about shrinking yours, or that co-worker who always says the wrong thing is rounding the corner - these are truly not problems in the grand scheme of things. Save your head the worry. Just spend some time with the people you love this weekend. Find yourself in the presence of what truly matters.
And pet your pup where the mohawk would be.
Thursday, January 22, 2009