Let me just start off by saying, this is not a post I am looking forward to making. In fact, I wasn’t even going to make it, but something in me made me do it. I don’t know why, nor do I know what that thing was, but alas, here we are.
My mom’s best friend, let’s call her Annie*, has a son, and we’ll call him David*. David is 18 years old, just seven months younger than me. David has had brain surgery five times now.
It started when David was twelve; a large tumor was found in his brain. We were scared, we didn’t know what to think. No one saw it coming. The tumor was eventually removed, but there was a little piece of it that couldn’t be reached. I’ll save you the long story by saying it grew back.
Fast forward to June 2016, and David has just had his brain surgery for the fifth time. Every other time, through my understanding, there have been no complications. Hell, David FaceTimed me two hours after surgery one night. He’s a fighter, and we’re proud of him. Although, this time, something was different.
David’s doctors realized that David’s motor skills were a bit slower than they had been after past surgeries. To their horror, they realized David couldn’t move the left side of his body. They rushed him off to get a ton of tests done. I don’t really understand this part, bear with my crappy writing for a minute, here.
A test revealed that David had a stroke during surgery. He’s eighteen years old. His mother told my mother that she prayed he would live.
My mother and I, after I returned from work that day, booked a hotel room in Chicago, where David was in the ICU at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. We left the next afternoon, again, when I got home from work.
Annie, David’s mother, is my mother’s best friend. They’ve known each other since they were in sixth grade. My mom has her diary from sixth grade, and the day where she met Annie on the playground is documented in it. My mother went to the Catholic elementary school, while Annie went to the public school. It wasn’t until they were in high school, working at the public library in town, that both Annie and my mother realized they were talking to the same girl they had met on the playground in sixth grade. They went to college together, and the friendship stuck through all these years.
That being said, Annie’s children and my brother and I became friends over the years. Annie has a son a few months younger than my older brother, David, and a daughter who is about my younger sister’s age. We got along pretty well throughout the years. That is, until I decided to be a piece of shit.
I won’t get into the full story, because BELIEVE ME, it’s ridiculous. Basically, there was a time when David and I didn’t get along, and we went probably a year without talking. Don’t ask me about it, believe me, the entire story is pathetic and I was being an immature little turd. I realize that now.
Anyway, back to the point.
The next day, my mom and I made our way to Chicago to visit David and Annie in the ICU. After making our way through the confusing-as-hell children’s hospital (Why you need so many elevators just to get to one floor, Lurie’s?), we reached the check-in desk at the ICU. We signed in, and in we went. Through the gates of hell.
I don’t know if any of you have been in the ICU. I don’t know if any of you have so much as set foot in the ICU. But once you walk through the ICU of a children’s hospital, your entire perspective on everything you’ve ever learned changes. It truly was like we had walked into hell.
There were little kids. BABIES, even. Little kids with no hair who were wrapping up chemotherapy treatments seemed to be the ones who had the most rooms down there. I don’t know what happened to this poor kid, but there was a BABY, younger than my two-year-old baby brother, with a tube down her throat. I can’t even write about this, because no words will EVER describe how horrible that place was.
We saw David and Annie, and David looked good! He had moved his left side a bit that day, which was a great sign! He was doing well. We talked to them for a long time (we joke that we overstayed our welcome to the point of poor David throwing up, which he did as we were leaving), and then we left. We walked back out into hell.
Leaving was worse than coming in the Children’s ICU. When you walked in, you saw a few rooms, but when you were leaving, you saw ALL of the rooms. Unfortunately for us, David was at the end of the hall, so we saw EVERYTHING.
My mom began to pray out loud for God to help the poor children, and I fast-walked the hell out of there, like an old lady when there’s a sale at Bloomingdale’s and she has to be first in line.
As soon as we got to the lobby, I started bawling.
I can’t describe what I saw in the Children’s ICU. I could try to tell you, but no words I could ever say would be enough to emphasize the pain and suffering I walked through that night. I knew David would be ok, but I also knew that some of those poor kids wouldn’t. And that feeling made me sick.
When we went to visit David the next day, I remember saying to my mother as we walked through the lobby to get our visitor’s passes, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to go here again. I don’t want to go back to that place.” Yes, I wanted to see David, but I didn’t want to have to make the walk to see him again.
It takes a strong kind of person to work in a Children’s hospital, let alone an ICU. Because of that, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to the entire staff at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and all staff at every children’s hospital, for all that you do. That cannot be an easy job, and we thank you for doing all you can for those children. A special thank you to the staff at Lurie’s for all you did for David.
Oh, how I wish the story ended here.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t.
When I returned home, I was hit with more bad news. A favorite teacher of mine from middle school, the father of one of my friends, has Stage 4 brain cancer.
Last week was rough. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a really shitty week. I learned a lot about myself while walking through the children’s ICU. Walking through that place took everything I had ever learned away from me. I remember walking through those halls wondering to myself, “If there is a God, why does he let this happen to innocent kids?”
David’s faith in God is one of the things that got him through. He’s in an in-patient rehab facility now to get his strength back. He’s out of the ICU. I’m happy about that, but I can’t stop thinking of those other kids. On the other hand, I’m so incredibly thankful that David is going to be ok.
I don’t really know how to feel, squadlings. It’s going to take a while for me to figure everything out.
Thanks for reading. In the words of Alice Sebold, “I wish you all a long and happy life.”
Godspeed, my friends.
*All names have been changed out of privacy and respect for the family.