To Those Caring for Sick Children,
As a parent of a child who was deeply cared for by a medical team for nearly seven months before he passed, I cannot describe the respect and admiration we, as parents, have for you who are in the medical field.
You are heroes. You are angels. You get to see miracles happen daily at your job. You get to see little lives come back after catastrophe and devastation, and you watch as they heal and grow and smile again.
And then sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you pour your heart and soul— every ounce within you into your job, caring for, tending to, diagnosing, healing, mending, fixing, and sometimes, even opening your heart a little to love. And sometimes you love little ones you lose.
I know it is hard on you. After living in a hospital for seven months, I learned quickly.
I know you ache. I know it’s painful to feel like every trick has been tried and all medical options have been exhausted. I know you replay and rethink, and I know you nearly wreck yourself trying to figure out what you could have done better or what new method you could try for a particular patient. I know you care for the children entrusted to you as if they were your own, because you know that is what you would want if you were in the parents’ shoes.
I know you cry— in the back hallways, in the car, in the shower when you get home. Sometimes you even give families the gift of crying with them. Looking back, those were the moments I remember the most. But this is your job. I know no matter how much my child dictated your time, how many days and nights he made you miss your lunch break, or how many shifts you spent never once getting a moment to chart or sit down, you still have to pull yourself together as you go home to your own families.
I didn’t choose that world, but you did. I jokingly used to call you all crazy for that, but that is not true. You are so brave. You are so strong. You are doing so much good. You are changing lives, and you are guiding the rest of us through the pain and struggle.
Anyone who has entered this world, even for a minute, knows you do so much more than just care for a child, because while you are attending to someone’s medical condition, you run into real people and real families with real lives and real stories. You care and you become a friend, an understanding voice, and sometimes a hand to hold.
While you were caring for my son, I was struck so deeply with the realization of what it means to do something in this world. You are doing. You are literally saving and changing lives, and for the ones you cannot save, you care for the parents and love them and give everything you can to help them as they ache and grieve and venture out on the impossible road before them.
A wise woman said, “these kids will rip your heart out.” She spoke from experience— caring for little ones and loving and losing them. There is reason to be guarded, to just “care” and do the best job possible but not to get attached. She knew better. Years of experience taught her that. She had her heart ripped out of her one too many times.
And yet, in all her experience and wisdom, I watched as she came to love my son. Despite her best judgment from lessons learned, she has worked this job, not just because she is good— which she is very good. She works this job, because she loves these children, truly and deeply, and she cares for each with endless respect and dignity. And even if my son’s death ripped her heart out, she still came to his funeral, still cried with me, still hugged me tightly, and told me she was proud. She cared for him, and she cared well. And then, she walked right back into work to do it all over again.
And then there is another who became the one to cry with me the week after he died, to meet me at the craft store and search for the perfect things for his funeral, to call me and talk to me still on a regular basis, because she knows that while she hasn’t experienced the same loss of a child, she loved my baby boy too, and she sat by and watched, and she knows better than almost anyone that I didn’t just lose a “baby”. I lost Charlie.
It’s the people who held my son’s hand for seven months as they cared for him. The ones who let him into their hearts and appreciated him as more than “just a sick baby”. He was a child. He was Charlie, and there are some that took time after doing just their duties to get to know him and care.
When you, in the medical field, let yourself care for those patients, you are leaving a permanent mark. I will never forget, and I speak for other parents too. You are doing your job, and you are doing it better than any textbook can teach. Even though you could not save my son, you loved him, and in doing that, you changed my life permanently.
Keep caring. Keep loving. Let your heart get ripped out again. I know it’s easy for me to say, but from my shoes, there is nothing more loving that you could do.
Remember the names and remember the faces of these ones who took a piece of your heart when they went. Let them make you better. Let them make you stronger.
You are so brave. You are doing so much good.
So much admiration for you,
A parent of a child you loved
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