Saturday, November 13, 2010

Choosing To Be Unaware

We’ve gotten used to consistency – at Neema, we had the same 40 children to bond with 18 hours every day and in Chulaimbo, we could always find Kawika and Daddy in the kitchen to color with. Here, in the hospital, it’s all up in the air and that is something that is very hard to wrap your mind around.

On Monday, Caroline’s IV port was taken out. On Wednesday, she was discharged and taken home. When I told Sarah Ellen this, she said “Oh, that’s too bad. I mean, too good. It’s bad and good.” Caroline was immediately one of my favorites at Sally Test – all you had to do was look in her direction and she would break into an enormous grin. Sarah Ellen’s response was exactly what I had been feeling: I was sad Caroline was leaving, but happy she was able to go.

On Monday, a little boy named Hosea came into the center. He said he would only be in the hospital for one day, so we didn’t make him a permanent nametag and kept in mind that this would be a short friendship. However, on Tuesday, Hosea was back again and he had a nametag this time. Yesterday, Friday, Hosea was discharged. We ended up having five days with him, and loved it – Hosea is so smart and so kind.I keep thinking I’ll miss him and have to remind myself that his absence from Sally Test is good news.

Annie and I were talking about this, when we said “Well, at least Mercy will still be with us.” Mercy is a wonderful little girl, who has huge tumors on the side of her face and neck. We immediately remembered why Mercy wouldn’t be leaving Sally Test anytime soon.
In some ways, you want to be unable to make a connection with these kids, because that means they don’t have to stay in the hospital for a long time. But then you see them light up, and you learn what makes them smile, and part of you doesn’t want them to ever leave Sally Test. Along with this, I’ve discovered that much of me doesn’t want to know why the children are in the hospital at all – this is a time where I think I’d rather be unaware, ignorant.Because really, what does knowing accomplish?

Ward 3 is the cancer ward and every time I look on a child’s name tag and see “WD 3,” I wish it wasn’t there. The other day we found out that Nick, a boy whom everyone at the center loves, has stomach cancer and may not ever leave the hospital. Sure, sometimes it’s good to know – a child with broken limbs must not be roughed around and a cancer patient needs quiet activities on chemo days. But in general, I’d rather see the kid as a kid, not as a patient. When you know a child will die, it changes everything.
So once again we must go with the flow, but this time choosing to be completely unaware of what is really going on. We must grasp any small moment we can to give these children joy, knowing all along we might never see them again, for good or bad reasons.We must block out our knowledge that most of the children in Sally Test won’t live and focus on happiness right here, right now. Because in the end, it won’t be about what sickness they had, it will be about how happy they were before they left.

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