Magic Bubbles

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I watched you cry. Silent, trapped cries that pushed and pushed resulting in your gasping and straining. These are the hardest cries to see. And not hear. The tiny veins in your face grew as you tried to scream in protest. And I wished I could do more.

I blew bubbles.

Your dad sat beside you and held you. Your mom stood next to the bed. Your brother played in a different world, he popped bubbles with Buzz Lightyear. I know you wanted us all to leave your room. And leave you alone. I know you wanted to go home. You knew exactly everything we had to do. I wondered if you hate bubbles. A hospital bubble aversion. All that they represent. All that they predict. This place. These experiences. Your pain. And your trapped cries.

I blew more bubbles.

This time for your mom. She stood there, helpless, yet not paralyzed by the unfairness of watching you, her beautiful child, suffer. She talked about the bubbles. She popped the bubbles for you. I hope you weren’t mad that I kept blowing them. For her. She needed the distraction. She needed a role. She needed to feel like she could offer you some comfort, some familiarity, a glimpse of hope.

I exhaled. Slowly. Repeatedly. My breaths filled all of the giant, tiny and medium sized bubbles that escaped. Into the air of your room. Before they vanished or popped.

I heard your father interupt the nurse as she prepared you for another “poke.” I think your dad wanted to protect you. Or maybe himself. Maybe he hoped you would cry less. Your nurse performed her job beautifully. She handled herself gracefully. She calmly stood her ground yet held her tongue. A delicate skill mastered by nurses who empathize, relate to, love and often sacrifice a bit of their pride, when necessary, by not fighting back. Because they understand that everyone’s on the same team. Or should be. A team that wants to get you feeling better. A team that wishes we could cause less hurt to help you. A team that will do some of the hardest things because we have to. To help you. Because we love kids. Especially the most resilient, the kids like you.

I blew bubbles.

Over and over. Again.

And again.

Until it was done. I left momentarily to go find your prize. When I returned to your room, I looked at you. No more hurt. No more crying. There, I saw it, resting in your lap, your two tiny hands gripped my pink and purple bubble container the best they could. While I was gone, you chose to hold the bubbles. I watched you happily play as you pushed the bubble wand in and pulled it back out. This helped me feel a tiny bit better, knowing that maybe you didn’t hate bubbles after all.

I put the bubbles away into my bag. I let them rest. I knew I would be using them again. A lot of times today. The next time my pager beep, beep, beeped at me.

So I walked into the next room. And I saw you.

You laid across your daddy’s lap. Your sweet ocean colored eyes peaked out from the hair that had tumbled down around your face. Your tiny half-naked body was completely surrounded by unfamiliar faces. You needed a quick distraction. Something to look at. To play with. Something to occupy your active toddler mind. I grabbed the magic container from my bag.

And I blew bubbles.

On my knees, at your level, I blew hundreds of bubbles for you to watch float around the room. They bumped into you, your dad, the nurses and doctors. Your dad blew them. And you did too. Your contagious and playful smile encouraged every adult to reach out and play along by popping the bubbles that drifted their way. Like a bunch of silly big kids. We would all do just about anything in our power to see you smile and hear your giggles.

Blowing bubbles seems like such a small thing to do. Sometimes it reminds all of us to breathe. Sometimes the bubbles remind us of your innocence. Your transparency. Your fleeting busy minds. Sometimes the bubbles can stop crying. And sometimes bubbles possess this quiet magic to momentarily take you away from the present pain.

I think I’ve watched a million bubbles take flight. And I will gladly watch a million more. If it can help in some small way to  make you less scared, less worried, more playful. And especially if it can make you feel more like a kid and less like a patient.

A Work Dream

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Everybody slept in my house. I snuck into my bed after spying on the brilliant and giant glowing full moon outside of my garage.

Then I had a dream. A work dream.

I was in a room with two girls. We played the board game, “Sorry.” The school aged girl bounced her giggly little toddler sister up and down, on and off of her lap. Her spunky high-ponytailed sister gladly interfered with our game. She grabbed the game pieces and moved them all over the board. Time and time again. I told the older girl how great of a big sister she was. She patiently moved the pieces back each time after her little sister rearranged them.

We played and talked. The little sister playfully pinched me and loved my overreaction. “Owwwww.” It didn’t hurt.

Then, I paused.

I remembered why the big sister, still so little and innocent staring up at me, had come to the hospital.

I needed to tell the big sister something important. Something that was a little hard to say.

I shared with her how I get the chance to work with all sorts of brave kids in the hospital. I told her about some kids that need stitches or others that break their arms and need a cast. I told her that a lot of kids, like her, have to do really hard things in the hospital. Things that hurt or make kids feel uncomfortable. Weird things like peeing in a cup. Or getting a bit of their blood taken from their veins through a tiny tube. She listened intently and nodded as I talked. She paid close attention as she focused her big kind eyes right on mine. 

Then, I exhaled.

I told her that me and my friends that work at the hospital believe that some of the bravest kids we ever meet carry around a kind of hurt that happened but doesn’t show up on the outside of their skin. Hurt that was caused when a grown up did something awful. Things a grown up should never have done. I talked about how it’s really hard and worrisome to carry a secret around. As a grown up and especially as a kid. I talked about how a grown up is supposed to protect, love and take care of kids and keep them safe, not hurt them.

I told her that we were all extremely proud of her for telling that a grown up had hurt her. And then I told her that she was one of the bravest. And I said it with the kind of sincerity that brought tears to my eyes and put a big lump in my throat. The kind that makes it a little hard to talk. I think I said it because I truly meant it. And because it’s true. 

And then I woke up to go to the bathroom.

I looked out the window at the dark after midnight sky. The moon had moved west. It was no longer big, bright and beautiful.

Something had changed since I had fallen asleep.

It seemed sad, angry, frustrated and disappointed. It seemed like it longed to hide underneath a lump of dark grey clouds.

Maybe that was just me.

The dream was too real. If not for the little girl’s beauty and resilience, it would have been a nightmare.

Or the kind of dream you hope to never have again. Ever.