Reflecting on this morning’s happenings, I cannot help but marvel at the power of community and the joy that comes through friendship. I had a diagnostic test scheduled for the whole morning plus an afternoon of classes. Definitely not a day to look forward to. But here’s how it actually unfolded:
I woke up really early, probably almost an hour before my alarm because I suddenly realized that the test may actually make me really, really sick. Trying not to panic, I started reading information online and wondering how I had gotten into this mess in the first place. In the back of my mind, I knew that I couldn’t make any rationale judgments when I was exhausted, in tons of pain, and hungry, but nevertheless I was going to go to the hospital in an hour and I wanted to be prepared.
The internet is a tricky thing: sometimes it provides us with far too much information. Today, however, it also provided me with a way to communicate with my network of friends and supporters. Someone had to be awake at 7 am. Maybe someone could hold my hand.
Yes, Elliot was awake and online. A trusty medical student with a calm demeanor, he helped me transition from panic to strategy. We decided that I would go to the clinic, ask them what test they were running, tell them about my allergies, and make sure that I won’t be put at extra risk through the test.
Once I actually saw a nurse, things were fine. She told me quite simply that the test on my intake form was not really the test that I was undergoing. Oh. It turns out that the doctor wasn’t trying to kill me after all. It was, however, a do-it-yourself test that involves sitting in a hallway and blowing air into a foil bag every fifteen minutes, all on an empty stomach.
Sitting in the basement of a hospital for two hours can get very boring. But, the miracle of community meant that I could share this amazing experience with two other patients. At first the two other patients were very shy, and everyone was hiding behind the tasks they brought with them: homework, games, puzzles, etc. But blowing into foil bags can get pretty funny, especially if you’re all scheduled to blow at about the same time. After an hour, we had become instant friends.
Esther, age 4, and Caleb, age 9, helped me laugh through a boring (and painful) morning. At one point, Esther was sitting on my lap showing me a virtual porcupine on her mom’s phone. The porcupine kept talking, but the volume wasn’t loud enough for me to understand what he was saying. Caleb was leaning over me, trying to look at the porcupine. Then Esther said, “He doesn’t speak English. He only speaks porcupine. That’s why you can’t understand him.” Then she started laughing, this cute little laugh with her hand partially covering her mouth. Before you knew it, Caleb and I were laughing, too. When she brought up the virtual giraffe who spoke neither English nor porcupine and also was perpetually sad, we couldn’t stop ourselves; everything was funny, and the kids started a competition over who could make the funniest faces. The nurse walked by to collect our bags of air and asked how everything was going. The two moms just looked at us and said, “I think they’re having a good time.”
Yes, even when Miss Abigail had to take a break to blow into yet another bag, Esther and Caleb were pondering what they could show me next. The three sick patients who had been complaining about abdominal pain so much an hour before were now having the time of their life. No matter that it was a random hallway in the basement of a hospital. No matter that we’d never met before. At that moment, they were the best friends a girl could have.
When it was time for me to leave, I realized how much the moms appreciated the break from caring for their kids. Having a child with a chronic illness is very demanding. Here was a stranger giving their children the time of their lives even while they were starving and undergoing a medical test. The energy and attention I gave to Esther and Caleb was miniscule and helped me feel so much more relaxed. But I realized that I had done for these moms what Elliot had done for me. A little bit of time and a lot of care and compassion translated into a shepherding beyond measure. I’m so glad that I can give as much as I receive.
Grateful for life’s little blessings,