Friday, February 26, 2010

Fighting Back Tears

I've been doing a lot of that, this week. First:

- I found out my nanny's granddaughter was in the PICU at the children's hospital. An uncommon, post-viral syndrome (ADEM) giving her uncontrollable seizures for over 24 hours. I'm not much of a praying type, but the kids and I have been praying all week. She's five days younger than Sicily, and they have grown up together. On Tue. after work, I went to Target to get a big gift card - it seemed silly to do - but I can't cook and she is on the vent, so can't yet receive flowers and cards. On the way home, I got a text from my nanny's youngest daughter, through whom I communicate with my Spanish-only speaking nanny.

"You can come see her, if you like. She's on the third floor in the PICU. Bed ---."

I knew this was code for please come help us communicate with the medical team. My nanny probably put her daughter, the child's aunt, up to the text. I felt apprehensive - I hadn't been to the children's hospital in a while and was worried I wouldn't know anyone. I veered away from my neighborhood and headed to the hospital.

As I walked into the PICU, Pamela greeted me. "I tried to communicate with the nurses, but it's hard." She is in nursing school. I followed her back to the enclosed space, and saw little Natalie in bed, asleep, hooked up to the ventilator, with feeding tubes in her nose. Five large medication administrators - they looked like car batteries with digital windows announcing the names of various drugs, sat at her feet. I looked at her, and thought of Sicily. Thought back to my brother, when he was in the PICU almost twenty years ago fighting viral encephalitis in a coma. Started to get choked up, then quickly fought it back - that wasn't why I was here. Not to get sad. I had a job.

I was immensely relieved when I knew the neurologist that walked in the room. Greeted her, and got good information about the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Made small talk, and expressed gratitude and appreciation that she was a part of the team. When she left, my nanny and her daughter thanked me.

- Wednesday afternoon, a cytotech walked into my office with a case. "Do you remember so-and-so? The blood bank tech from the University?" Of course I remember her. I fell in love with her, on my blood bank rotation. We were pregnant with our first kids together. She was tall, bold, incredibly beautiful, sweet, and funny. We joked and commiserated, about our gravid conditions. "She learned she has metastatic pancreatic cancer, on New Year's Day." It was like a blow to the stomach. She has two small kids, about my age. Can't cry in front of the staff, but I almost did.

- Thursday, after a fun but intense hour-plus of science fair judging after work, I showed up late to book club at The House. Enjoyed a great burger and fries. After two of the members left early to relieve their sitters, me and a friend opened up to each other about our lives and struggles. Listening to her helped me process my own situation. I invited her back to my house and we stayed up late talking, drinking wine, and listening to music.

- Friday morning when I got to work, my friend Laurie from the gross room - the amazing mix-maker - showed up in my office. I had shut the door the day before, and let her in on some personal stuff. She made me a mix, and gave me a gift certificate to Starbucks. I was moved to tears. "This is not sad music. It's angry music. Listen to it, on your way to see your brother and sister in Atlanta next week. I think it will help." I am driving to Memphis on Friday - much better plane fares. I smiled. "Thanks. I need some angry music."

- Today I was crossing the Arkansas River to Maumelle, car full of smoked salmon, meats and cheeses from Boulevard, on the way to a baby shower for my friends that adopted on Christmas Day. I was co-hosting with a large group. Staring at the river (and my iphone for directions - I only made one wrong turn), I started thinking about my own life situation. Feeling sorry for myself, and lonely. Listening to Jeff Beck (more Laurie). Then I pulled out of my two minute self-pity party. Backed up to Loretta Lynn, and sang at the top of my lungs. I'm going somewhere. I don't know where yet, but it's got to be better than where I've been.