“You’re lucky you got him here when you did. If you had waited any longer, he could have died.”
I remember Dr. Cohen saying that as if it were yesterday. I can see where we were standing. I can see what I was wearing. I can see my wife crying. And then I remember very vividly his next sentence, “It’s ok. He’s going to be just fine.” Patrick had ruptured his appendix and if it weren’t for Dr. Cohen, the toxins released could have killed him within a few hours.
It happened between the first and second year of the Dave and Carole Miracle Marathon. I remember the first year of the marathon vividly, for a very embarrassing reason. On the morning of the first day of the telethon, I showed up late because I had driven downtown to the old location around 20th and Wisconsin. The hospital hadn’t been at that location for almost 10 years. Here I was, a guy with a 4-year old son who was about to go on the air for three days to raise money for the hospital, and I didn’t even know where it was located.
I spent the next three days listening to stories of families whose lives were deeply affected by the doctors and staff. Most of them had happy endings, some not so much. And while each was compelling in its own way, to me they were still stories, until four months later, when I had a story of my own to tell.
Patrick hadn’t been feeling well. He was up all night saying his tummy hurt. No real fever to speak of, no vomiting. Nothing to be alarmed about, right? But there is something to be said about a mother’s intuition. Sue sensed something wasn’t right and took him to our pediatrician. Doctor Mike walked in the room, pushed Patrick’s stomach a few times, listened with the stethoscope and walked out of the room. A few minutes later he walked back in, looked at us and said “get him to Children’s Hospital right away. They’re waiting for you.”
We had just become a story.
The next couple of hours seemed like they flew by in about three minutes. At 7 p.m., Dr. Cohen took Patrick into emergency surgery. The next two hours felt like two days.
We had been in the waiting room for about 45 minutes when an older woman sat down next to us. She obviously had noticed the concern in our faces. She asked what was wrong, and we filled her in on every little detail. She listened intently and comforted both of us.
We asked her why she was there. Her answer changed us forever. Her granddaughter had gone into surgery at 11:30 a.m. to remove a brain tumor. It was her second surgery in three years. Here was a woman whose grandchild had been in major surgery for more than eight hours, and she was comforting us. Moments later, Patrick was wheeled by and we were able to see him. She looked at us and said, “Do you mind?” and walked up to him and gave him a little kiss on the forehead.
We were stunned. Why in the world would a woman who met us only moments ago, and whose own grandchild was undergoing major surgery, have that level of concern for Patrick? Eight days later, we would find out.
The next week was pretty exhausting. Sue took the day shift while I kept the 5th floor of the hospital awake with my snoring. Friends and family came by with balloons, coloring books, toys and games. We realized how truly blessed we were. But down the hall, the story was completely different.
A young boy was in with a serious head injury. It took us about two days to realize that no one was staying with him around the clock. No one came to visit. No balloons, toys or games. Just a 10-year old boy alone in a hospital room. Sadly, this story is more common that you would like to believe.
Seven days after being admitted, Patrick was well enough to go home. We boxed up the wonderful gifts, and tied the balloons to his wheelchair and headed to the elevator. And then, Patrick did something that truly amazed us. He looked at the nurse and said, “I don’t need all these balloons and stuff. No one ever came to visit that other boy. He can have these.”
That is the magic of Children’s Hospital. It’s the innocence of children that touches all of us. They are little people that hold an unconditional love for everyone. The prejudice and bias that weighs all of us down as adults hasn’t affected them yet.
And interestingly enough – they have no hope.
No hope? How can they not have hope? The answer is simple. Having hope implies there is a negative outcome that is considered to be possible. In these children’s minds, there is no negative outcome. They don’t ask, “but what if…” because to them, there is no “what if…” They never give a second thought to the possibility of something bad happening – therefore, there is no need for hope.
Something happens to you when you have a child at Children’s Hospital. You change forever. You immediately understand the concept of throwing yourself in front of a moving train if it means your child would be better. You see their unbiased view of the world and realize just how much jaded baggage you carry with you each and every day. But most importantly, you realize how blessed we are to have a place like Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin within minutes of our homes.
In a span of about seven months, I went from a guy who drove to 20th and Wisconsin looking for a hospital that hadn’t been there for 10 years, to a guy who not only knew where it was, but could show the new parents how to find the cafeteria and tell them to make sure to try the cheesy hash browns. We finally knew why that grandmother gave Patrick a little kiss on the forehead.
Since that first miracle marathon, I have participated in 10 other marathons. I’ve seen kids that were patients years before come back to the radiothon stronger and healthier than any kid you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen parents who have returned to the marathon the following year – alone. But if you ask either of those parents how they feel about Children’s Hospital, they will tell you it is the most wonderful place on earth when it comes to treating a child. I would agree.
Please join me May 26-28. Take the time to not just listen, but to hear; and take the time to donate. It’s so easy, just go to chw.org/miraclemarathon.
~ KB, WKLH 96.5, guest blogger