May 2 2017
A Facebook friend recently reached out and asked if anyone would be willing to help with a special project: to send cards to a patient. A teenage boy has been hospitalized for the last few months because of his Crohn’s. He has missed school, a Disneyland trip, and is about to celebrate his 18th birthday as an inpatient. This request has stirred up some feelings about my first hospitalization.
At seventeen, after a five-plus year battle without answers, I was finally diagnosed. I had been feeling awful, a typical flair. Ironically enough, the day the doctor called to have me admitted was the first day in a long string of them that I remember feeling good; feeling normal. (Whatever that means.) I had just gotten out of the shower when my parents knocked on my bedroom door. I remember ducking down behind my bed and watching as both of my parents came into the room. My mom was clutching a phone and had tears in her eyes. My dad, my dad looked as white as a ghost. Iron anemia. I was so low on blood that I needed to be admitted to have two pints transfused. It wasn’t until after I was admitted that the diagnoses would come.
During my stay, a volunteer at the hospital gave me a rock. I don’t know if that was typical behavior or if I just looked like I really needed a friend. This rock, it didn’t take away my pain. It didn’t stop the fear from soaking me to my core. Or even stop my mom from snoring as she laid beside my hospital bed. What it did do though, was offer me peace. It made me feel less alone.
Ten years have gone by, and in those years ten different moves have transpired, and I still have that green, painted rock. It is a part of me; a part of my story.
Some days it feels like we get through on kindness and love alone. Maybe a card is not the dream gift for an 18th birthday; maybe a painted rock will not change the outcome of a patient’s stay, but then, maybe it will. This disease has shown me to look for the light in the dark, even if the light is a faint glowing ember in a dying fire, there is beauty to be had. There can be beauty in the breakdown.