It was while working in Brooklyn that I came up close and personal with children receiving chemotherapy. I was between my own family’s caregiving episodes and knew the daily strain on the parents. I also couldn’t help but notice the warm bond between nurses, parents and the child who was about to get infused with another dose of poison that took this child to the edge without taking the child out too.
The eyes of these children stole my heart and my breath. Waiting for the elevator one day, I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant hues in one boy’s eyes. Life was in there, even though drugs had turned his pale skin dry and itchy. This was a boy who should have been harassing a sister with rubber snakes or sliding in to home plate. His eyes were alive with dreams. I wanted to look away to avoid seeing his pain, but he held my gaze. Not in search of pity, but because he wasn’t yet old enough to respond to elevator behavior. I saw innocence, trust, and love.
I had learned not to touch his skin without gloves to minimize infection, but it was his father who taught me how to respond. “This is Jacob. You can touch his knee, or his shoulder.” I knelt down and put my hand on his knee. “How’s your day going, Jacob?” He squeezed his Teddy, and I asked if Teddy had a name, always conscious not to invade the family’s values about health words to use, or not use. And then I asked if I could say a quick prayer for him. Without showing the big glob in my throat, I prayed quietly for Jacob and his father.
In the elevator, I pressed four, taking me up to the administrator’s floor where my team was implementing electronic medical software. Jacob pressed three without any apparent prompting from his father. The infusion center. As the parent stepped out of the elevator, I said, “God bless you, Jacob’s daddy.” He said, “God bless you too.”
And He does.