sticks and gowns

May 28, 2022

Starting around midday, my coworker and I began to feel ourselves flagging in endurance and, by the afternoon, I asked her, “Have we managed to breathe today?” Truthfully, though, it had kind of felt like that the whole week, never mind Friday—and for everyone, not just us . . .

The young father with an afternoon appointment was, judging by appearances, right with us. It was his first time solo with the two, one an infant and one a preschooler. The infant had spent most of the hour at the clinic crying, while the other child sprang about like Tigger, testing her dad’s patience—the level of which was unfortunately already being tested by the fact that we were overbooked and behind schedule. 

By the time we came in to administer vaccines to the youngest, the other child had apparently misjudged her bladder’s fill line. Her dad was pulling off the wet garments, and the girl was clearly embarrassed. In a quick troubleshooting response, my coworker offered to fill the role we normally assign to parents, with arms wrapped around the little one while the nurse tries to, as quickly as possible, give the injections. Jane gathered up the little one and began to sit in one of the chairs. She immediately leapt right back up, springing from the seat with a surprised gasp, “Oh!,” she blurted out, “I just sat in pee-pee, didn’t I?!?” A glance at the dad’s face confirmed that yes, indeed, this was the pee-pee chair. She glanced at the damage done to her bottom, shrugged, and sat back down in another chair.

Minutes later, vaccinations were done and the family was ready to leave. I’d put the wet clothing into a plastic bag, handed it to the father, and then glanced over to the little girl, now wearing one of our clinic’s spare diapers. While I was getting a bag, Jane had had pulled one of the paper exam gowns out of the drawer and was folding, wrapping, and tying it in order to fashion a small dress for the girl. 

“Oh, wow!” I commented, “that is such a nice dress. My sister and I used to make dresses like that too!”

The girl smiled.

Jane glanced up at me, winking slightly as she said, “You know, I might just need to make myself one of these before I leave today, as well!”

So much in this world is so, so very wrong. But there are, in the midst of all, moments of right-ness

*photo is of another part of my life that is, generally speaking, pretty solidly in the “right-ness” category ;-)

princess jewels

May 15, 2022

She was one of our last few patients on a Friday afternoon. It had been a long week and I, for one, was feeling the weight of all the needs. And, in this work, there are so many. You may have heard mention of a national shortage of baby formula. If you wondered if it  was real, I, for one, am inclined to think that it is: mothers come into the clinic telling us they are feeding their infants regular soy milk, unable to find baby formula on the shelves. As they are about to check out, we hand over a tin from our shelf of donated formula but know that it is not enough . . . never enough . . .

But I digress. As I do.

Feeling the weight of all the needs, I began to take vitals for a new patient yesterday afternoon. Her parents, young and conscientious, took note as I jotted down her weight. They mentioned that she hadn’t lost as much as they were afraid she might have, newly recovered from a bug that had left her unable to eat for several days. She had been to an Urgent Care clinic, they explained, as I tried to get her height and realized that she was terrified of the disc I needed to place on her head for the measurement. With three of us joined in the effort, I managed to get a number down. When it came time for the pulse reading, I put my stethoscope on, held up the chest-piece, and knelt in front of her. “You know what this does?” I asked, She gazed at me, clearly hesitant. “It hears your heart!” I said. “Do you want to listen to your heart?”

I then made a show of listening to my own heart. ( thought, to be quite honest, I was realizing that I should take the time to do so more regularly—it was rather interesting to hear my own heartbeat ;-) ) 

Watching me with only a slight bit of lingering wary-ness, I saw a guard let down as she nodded, yeah.

I smiled and told her that she’d have to watch me REALLY carefully in order to learn how to listen to it. I then put that stethoscope to her chest and, while she quietly and calmly watched me, I counted out her pulse rate. By the time it was her turn, I had the number I needed, and she was happily engaged in the game of it all. I knelt in front of her, holding the stethoscope to her chest after fitting the earpieces into hers. A few moments later, I lifted my eyebrows dramatically and mouthed the words, “Do you hear it?”

She slowly, and solemnly, nodded her head.

The rest of the vitals were also a game, from that point on, fully enjoyable for me no less than for her, as I got to smile back at her wide-eyed grin. She proudly wore the “crown” I placed on her head to measure the circumference, and she smiled when I “lasered” her with the thermometer.

Looming in my awareness of her newly gained trust, however, was the knowledge that I would soon have to break it: she was predicted, I knew, for two vaccines after the doctor had seen her . . .

Sure enough, 20 minutes later, the light went on in the nurse’s station. The other nurse and I prepped the syringes and walked back in to her room.

Her smile faded ever so slightly as we arranged her in her father’s arms, positioning her little frame. And then the first needle went in, and back out again, and tears began. Prepared to grab her legs, I realized with surprise that she was not fighting. She cried, but sat still and stoic in her father’s grip.

A moment later it was done, bandages were in place, and I told her I had a prize for her. I pulled out of my pocket the cloth purse I had chosen out of our treasure chest. And I told her that, inside, were her princess jewels. “You wore your crown already,” I said, and now you get to put on your jewels.” Still teary-eyed, she pulled out the little bracelet and slipped it on her wrist. I stood up to then and said goodbye to her parents and to her. As I walked out of the room, she looked straight at me and, through her sniffles, tears still rolling down her cheeks, she lifted her jeweled hand, waving while she tried to get out the words, “Bye-bye.”

She wasn’t the only teary-eyed one in the room that day. But she was certainly the bravest.

*photo is not mine. simply a royalty-free image that I found lovely.


May 8, 2022

Death is evil.

I wrote those words some time ago on a post about my GramBea’s death.

War is evil.

I said these words tonight, sitting down with my husband after adieu’ing our dinner guest. I was picking up my newest book, entitled Silver Like Dust, and had paused, looked up from my book, and read out loud the words that brought tears to my eyes when spoken out loud. Words of hate that were printed in a newspaper, spoken about an entire race, during a war. I sputtered through the words, saying when I finished, “That was actually printed! . . . How????.” 

Peter nodded, and commented, calmly, that war does that—dehumanizes people.

Stunned, it occurred to me then that, yes, we are probably seeing a similar sort of dehumanization happening in the all-too-real present war we are witness to.

And, yet, today . .. 

-I chat with a woman I know only through regular stops are her workplace. We share a brief, teary-eyed coversation about the truth of the ambivalence that Mother’s Day brings to those of us who do not fit into the standard boxes . . .

-I am the recipient of an act of simple, loaves-and-fishes kindness . . . yet again . . .

-I sit in awe at the sight of a super-human dancer, while in the midst of a Yo-Yo Ma playlist. The man appears to be made of rubber, in a sublimely graceful series of motions. I stop my reading and gaze at the beauty of a human being who is in pure, uninhibited, un-self-conscious motion.

I marvel.

Life is good.

*photo is from the last day of a long week in the clinic. Getting our new workplace set up, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that I get to work for a place where we, recognizing the pain that we encounter each day, are willing to creatively insert bright spots into the lives of the little ones coming in for care. “Follow the dragon,” we say, as we usher patients out of the rooms. Wide-eyed stares turn to smiles when they see that yes, indeed, there is a dragon just waiting for them to find him :-)