Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eugenia’s Reflection

We chose the color of our scrubs, between blue or pink. Tied hair, hat, face mask, clean hands. We entered the large room that is divided in various sections that host many of the children we’re going to get to know over these three months. We had been told about the scenes that we would witness there, but nothing really takes hold in the mind until one sees it for him/herself. I get certain nervousness for not knowing how to interact in these situations. Dealing with children has always been one of my weaknesses and now it represents a much bigger challenge by knowing they have cancer.

We go into Alan’s room. My partner Debbie, who has been here before, quickly offers colors and drawings to paint. Alan smiles, he recognizes her. Repeating the action, I get into another room with one of this cohort’s volunteer, Keya. We visit Diego. They have extracted seven teeth from him this morning. His mother tells us "it is difficult to be here, look what time is it and we are just having lunch." My clock strikes 5pm. Diego is sitting on the bed. I tell them that Keya has come from England and that she speaks English, maybe she could teach some words to Diego. He is watching us quietly and seriously. "What would you like to learn in English Diego?".  He doesn’t answer, doesn’t know what to say. His mother pushes him "Ask her how to say hi to mommy." Keya immediately says "Hello mommy". Diego looks at her quietly. "It’s easy Diego, repeat: Je-lou MAMI", I say.  Diego repeats and smile. His expression has an indescribable effect on me.  The only fact of making him smile has been rewarding enough.

It is our second visit to the hospital. There are new faces. Alan is gone. This time we spoke with Andrea, 15. Short hair, swollen right hand. Joanna does not speak Spanish, but has, somehow, helped Andrea to write down in one the notebooks we brought several words in English. I observe the interaction between them; it seems that without speaking the same language, they understood each other pretty well. In the next room, Budz is giving jello to a 13 year old that seems much younger. They smile at each other. I go to Diego’s room once again but he doesn’t remember me. He is lying on the bed and has trouble breathing. Rebekah comes with me and offers him colors and drawings to paint. Rebekah noticed that Diego has a DVD player and asks him what movies he likes, maybe next time she could bring some Disney ones. I am helping, translating each other. Diego doesn’t smile today, he seems very tired, but nods to all of Rebekah’s suggestions. I leave them alone. I notice, however, on the next room, a scene that permeates my memory. A three year old girl with no hair, crying, screaming and kicking, because she doesn’t want to have another needle in her arm, besides from a catheter that she already holds in her chest. The Doctor and his mother are battling to keep her still, but she refuses.

Cancer also dares to attack our children. In many cases it wants to take out their breath and childhood. I feel I'm lucky to get to see this reality. Fortunate to talk with children who are heroes of their own being. Braver than any of us. Volunteering allows you to help and give without expecting anything in return. But what an honor is to receive one of those smiles.

Written by Eugenia Robles
Edited by Desirée Benson

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing your experience and your positive attitude with everyone.