One night a couple of months later we were in the PICU. Lauren was septic, which was bad enough, but
she went into shock. Her heart was having trouble pumping her blood because of toxins that the
bacteria had released into her bloodstream. She was critically ill. It was pretty stressful. The mood was tense. Lauren was on a lot of medication and was not very comfortable. It was the second night of being moved into the PICU. Earlier that night a guy had been moved into the room next door and was moaning
really loud because of a head trauma.; It went on for hours. It scared Lauren at first. I sat by Lauren’s bed and faded in and out of sleep. His constant moans
kept me awake and added to the stress. In the middle of the night Lauren was awake. I was having trouble with anxiety over Lauren’s condition. The last time
she was in PICU, we started praying the rosary. I would pray and Lauren would rest. She liked the sound of the prayer. I took the rosary off of her chemo pole and asked her if she wanted me to pray the rosary for her. She said, “Yes.”
“But, I want you to pray for him.” “Who? I asked. “The boy next door that hurt his head,” she said. “He needs it.” I don’t’ know if she how sick she was. I
knew she was really uncomfortable. But, even in the middle of that, she wanted me to pray for him. Giving to others and praying for others is the most powerful way for us to get outside ourselves, our own problems, and feel like we make a difference in this world. She knew this instinctively.
When we are there for others it gives us hope.
What kids naturally do that adults don’t is to let go of sorrow and find some joy. They want to play. They find ways to play. When they do, the memories of pain and sorrow are gone. They don’t search them out and dwell on them. This is finding hope and it is what they do naturally.
After Lauren got out of the PICU, she wanted so much to play. Anytime she wasn’t throwing up or hurting, she found ways to entertain herself. She loved painting nails and became quite good at it. In fact, some of the nurses and many of our new friends at the hospital would stop in and chat and let Lo paint their nails. We made new friends all over the hospital, which brought joy to our stay. She would find everyday ways to have fun. Fun is an easy way to find HOPE. Lately, I try to let go of some of the painful memories of Lauren’s 6 months in the hospital. I try to remember the fun.
One of the best memories is when a big storm hit the last week of January. It was a snow day! But, not for Lauren. She wasn’t feeling that great and was in bed all day. She was kind of sad that she was couped up and was having trouble finding ways to be happy. One of my friends, Kim Root, texted announcing that “Yeah, it was a snow day> I texted back and said I was sad remembering all the fun that we had in the past on previous snow days. She replied, “Can Lo come to the window later? Other than a couple of the kids, most of the kids in Lauren’s class had not seen Lauren and Lauren hadn’t seen them. This was one of my worries. The isolation was starting to get to her. The walls were closing in…..she was losing HOPE> I texted Kim back indicating I would try. We thought around 4:00 might work. Around 4:00, I peaked out the window and saw Kiley and a couple of Lauren’s other friends playing in the snow. Lo’s nurse and I coaxed Lauren to stand stand up on the cot to look out at what she thought were just some random kids playing. She said, “that looks like Kiley’s frog hat. Then, a couple more kids ran out from the parking garage. Lo giggled and was curious as to what these kids were doing. Then she said, “that girl runs like Caroline!” Lo looked at me and looked puzzled. I said, “Yep, those are your friends!” More and more kids ran out of the parking garage. Lo was trying to figure out who everyone was and was laughing and smiling. She wrote on the window “HI!” and waved at all of them. About 30 kids ended up coming out on the snowy lawn to play, make snow angels and wave up at Lauren. As I was watching her, I realized it was if she wasn’t in the hospital room, but watching all her friends at recess playing. She was back in the midst of her people. The sparkle came back to her eyes and she smiled so big.
•Between her beloved friends and her silly nurses and all the people rallying around to support her, Lo found HOPE in the people that loved her, including a timely visit near her birthday from Taylor Swift. She especially loved the ones that treated her like any other kid. Our priest, Father Weeder knew how to do that, sometimes to my dismay. One day he was bouncing the volleyball back and forth with her even though she was hooked up to a central line right into her aorta. They were laughing and having a good time. I was on the cot holding my breath hoping that she didn’t pull her line out. But, sometimes she had to disappear back into being a kid.
•Dr. Thompson knew that. Sometimes when Lauren was at her worst, Dr. Thompson would say “Get those little friends up here right away.” She knew that Lauren needed to be with her people, despite the fact she had no immune system and it was a risk. Her little friends put on a brave face and stood by her when she was at her worst hooked up to machines and oxygen masks. They were shaking, but once they locked onto each others eyes, you knew that the strength and love from her friends was filling Lauren up with the kind of hope that she needed. You could see her eyes sparkle. The love found in friendship is powerful. It made Lauren fight like mad to get herself well and get back to her little friends. The connection we have with people is sometimes just what we need. I know the oldsters at church always poo poo when we give each other the sign of peace and hug and carry on. But, it is one of my favorite parts of the mass. When our family is at its worst, sometimes that kiss of peace is what holds us together that day or the shake of a stranger’s hand and a smile gives me the hope in that moment that I am connected to a bigger cause.
•So….don’t lose Hope, because when the sun goes down…the STARS come out.
•Our future is uncertain and I am sure there will be times when fear will knock at the door again. But, when fear knocks and hope answers, we will find that fear is no longer there when we open that door.