Limits of Experience

A friend stopped me on the street. The daughter of her friend had been admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. When the nurse asked the girl to walk across the examination room the six-year-old couldn’t do it without stumbling.

Did I have any advice? Despite all the planned – and unplanned – time I’ve spent in hospitals, my brain drew a blank. All I could think about was the shock and fear that mother must be feeling. The best I could do was to suggest calling friends for company and use the free WiFi to keep both of them distracted.

In the same week, sitting in a waiting room in the hospital, we struck up a conversation with a mother whose son is also about to get a g-tube. She and her son had been living in the Ronald McDonald house near the hospital for two years. Home, where her other child and husband are, is five hours away. Her son had an underlying condition that had required three organ transplants. He has Leukemia. His immune system is so weak he can’t be with the other patients in the house. His lungs are only functioning at about 50% capacity, but because of his history he wasn’t considered a candidate for a lung transplant. Her son had a stroke that left him with learning disabilities. She said they would have to work out how to deal with school when they went home

With tears constantly in her eyes, she still managed to relay this information in a calm, almost chatty, manner. I couldn’t bring myself to ask when she expected to go home.

At the moment, my head is filled with getting home-care nurses into the school, feeding bags that clog and worries about Deane’s impending g-tube operation.

But now my pre-occupations seem rather inconsequential. I feel humbled and helpless when I hear stories like these. I wish my experience could truly help them. All I can do is send positive thoughts and hope.


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