Spending time within a children’s hospital is a great leveller. I know as an adult and a parent there is a requirement to “provide”; roof, food, safety. But what you experience and observe at a Children’s Hospital takes the past and the future and leaves them distant. Somehow the NOW ( immediacy) comes to the forefront. The moment you treasure, drink in and absorb is that very one you sit and live within, right then.
The Children’s Hospital within the Westmead complex is a rabbit warren of hope and frustration. It is a place where remarkable things are discovered just walking down the hallways. It is an environment of contrasts. The walls are laden to breaking with framed artwork and collages from the children who spend time there. This is some of the most fascinating and beautiful art I have ever seen. I literally walk down the hallways mesmerised and awestruck. Does suffering enhance the creative process, pushing all that feeling out into the world wrapped in exquisite beauty?
There is a service staffed by volunteers for all children based in the Starlight Room. They run a Hospital TV network. Children who are ambulatory can go down to the room and play or be part of the activities, and those bedridden have an internal phone number they can use to call in. A game I observed was guessing the artist and the song title. A section was played, and the phone started ringing. Young voices would talk clearly. Some obviously did nothing but absorb music. AJ insisted his mum phone, and phone until he could add his piece. Mum ( and occasionally I) fed him the artists name and song title. The volunteer at one point didn’t get his name right ( calling him Aidan and not AJ) so he phoned back and corrected her. Cute. Assertive for a not-quite-9 year old. The competition was fierce.
A plot was hatched within AJ’s mum to volunteer once a month to run a similar show – she and her crop of sisters. I think that would be wonderful. We have a need to give back.
In the last couple of days my heart has broken time and time again. My daughter looked at me as we all watched a father with his three younglings walk back into the hospital ahead of us from outside where the early heat warmed all of our winter hearts. One of his young ones trailed an IV tree and had lost all her hair. As tough as our journey is, right now, we are grateful for what we have.
Every single moment we have is what matters. Everything else can be dealt with. And will be. Together. With great love.
We will find a way to give back.