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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Night Sky

My little grandson had to spend a week at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis last December. Riley's has gone sugar and salt free. They've got boatloads of candy and chips in their numerous gift shops and restaurants, but you can't find a drink with real sugar or a packet of salt anywhere on the property! I like water, but every once in a while, I wanted something with flavor ... and sugar. When the craving became severe, I'd walk to nearby Eskenazi Hospital, where they sold "real" drinks (and their cafe's had salt!). 

I spoke to a lot of other parents during that week. All of them had a child that had been in the hospital for many months. Some of them had been there for over a year. Some had traded back and forth with their spouse so that one of them could be at Riley's and the other could be home to take care of their other kids ... or to just try to keep their job. All of them, it seemed, had a critically/chronically ill child. I felt almost guilty that, despite his burns, my grandson was perfectly healthy. He would recover without any memory of that week, and the scars will be minuscule by the time he's grown. I was worried about his pain and the possibility of skin grafts (which he fortunately didn't need), but unlike those other parents, I didn't have to worry about his quality of life or the possibility he wouldn't make it.

December is a terrible time to be in the hospital, but Riley's (and Indianapolis) bent over backwards to bring some Christmas joy into the children's lives. Children and their parents, who might not have had a reason to smile for a long, long time, got a few moments of happiness at each thoughtful gesture. I think the parents needed those brief respites even more than their children. The kids have to endure the medical procedures and overcome their circumstances, but anyone with a child knows it hurts more to watch your baby in pain than it is to be in pain yourself. I'm quite certain every single one of those parents would have traded places with their child in a heartbeat. 

It always seemed to be dusk when I'd walk to Eskenazi, and every time, the sky was ablaze with color. I couldn't help but wonder if those other parents, exhausted from months (or years) of worry and stress and grief, ever took a moment to look up and notice the beauty painted on the world's largest canvas. I really hope they did. 

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