Phoenix Children's Hospital is a beautiful tower that you can see from many locations throughout the Phoenix area. Prior to Sonzee, I could count the number of times I had visited, and only one of those times involved staying over. With our son's congenital heart defect, we go on a routine basis simply to check in, and after his adenoids and tonsils were removed when he was three, he was required to stay for 24-hour observation. When we used to drive past the hospital while on the highway, our son would point and say, "Look, it's my hospital". Before Sonzee, when our son would say those words I would agree, but in the back of my mind I would think how he had no idea what taking ownership of such a place, of "his hospital" even meant.
I used to look at the gorgeous building and think about what went on behind the windows and changing LED lights. A stationary building that looks empty except for the light in random windows at night. It was not wondering in the sense that I wanted to actually know what went on inside the walls; it was more of a melancholy feeling that overtook me thinking about the sadness of the types of children that required this type of establishment. I had known a handful of stories of families who lived a hospital life while carrying for children who were sick and it always broke my heart. In the back of my mind, I would pay a sort of respect to those in the hospital while I was driving by, but I was merely an unknowing outsider.
There is no way to possibly comprehend the magnitude of the power that is held inside a building so simple and so grand looking. There is the physical beauty combined with the fact that this entire building’s purpose is dedicated to helping save children’s lives. A giant chandelier hangs in the entry of the main tower. It doesn't matter the amount of times I walk in and out, I always wonder how could they have possibly hung something so huge and dainty without it dropping to the floor and shattering? The main lobby wall is covered with floor to ceiling glass windows. It is almost ironic that the separating partition between the outside and hospital worlds is the large clear windows that essentially trap you inside a type of hell, as if to taunt you. On each floor, each elevator area has a unique statue placed in front of a series of windows that give you picturesque views of the entire valley. The rooms are bigger than the basic cruise ship room complete with a personal bathroom and are all private, which is a good thing for the many times you will undoubtedly break down in the shower.
Many times a day I catch myself just watching the flight path of the planes taking off and landing from Sky Harbor Airport. Sonzee's room faces the south central portion of Phoenix with a view of many parking areas, ambulatory buildings, and the fire station. This fire station has always been a source of contention for me. It has the word HOPE facing up towards the rooms in huge white block letters. I distinctly remember the first day she was admitted when she was 4 weeks old and her room faced that sign. I took a picture of the word and actually felt myself receive some inner strength. A year and 2 months later in a different room but same view, I find myself just staring at that word and feeling overwhelmed with every emotion except the naivety that such a word could bring.
The word HOPE used to take on a different meaning when I was an outsider. As an outsider, I spent my time with a secret hope to never have to know what it was like to be privy to the inner workings of living a life that involves routine hospitalizations. As an outsider, I would spend my car rides daydreaming and hoping to never need to know what truly goes on inside the walls of a children's hospital. As an outsider, I would feel a brief sting when I learned of other families who were unfortunately joining the ranks of a hospital life, but I was definitely in a world of ignorant bliss. I miss being an outsider.
Interestingly being an insider makes me feel like a more well rounded person. I cannot understand the battles of all the families I have met in the playroom or the hallway. Nor do I have an idea of what they are specifically going through, yet at the same time, I have a different appreciation for their personal circumstances. As an insider, I completely understand the extra 2-minute hesitation while ordering a morning Starbucks beverage and the need to go sit on a couch and just play on my phone for long periods. As an insider, I understand the emotion that is hidden behind the outward expressions that caregivers wear on their faces. As an insider, I can tell when it’s a parents first time in the surgery waiting area; which means I also don’t feel awkward giving them a hug and letting them know it’s okay to cry. As an insider, I have deeper clarity and can appreciate more while judging a lot less.
However, truth be told, I would much rather I was an outsider.
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