Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lunch at Sick Kids resets priorities

Sometimes I go through Sick Kids just to reset my priorities.  Yesterday I did that.  Had lunch at a table where we sat many times while my daughter had open-heart surgery there four years ago, when she was eight.  Here are three poems I wrote then.
Sick Kids atrium

With Heart
To My Brave 8-year Old

His English accent was precise
But his Sri Lankin nature superseded
Lent a softness, a gentleness
To the necessary course of action

We sat together, he and I and my small Alicia
And looked at the diagram of the heart
A cartoon heart he called it
And the world slowed, stalled and tilted
Until, shaking, Alicia hung her head and I
Patted her leg.
In perfect symmetry, we matched -

The image of human despair,
The image of human inability
to in any way relieve that despair.

He assured us she will be up and running
Again at the end of five days
Visibly relieved he was.
What else was I to do?
There is no option?

Courage and dignity
Poor child
How to explain
Heart surgery
And should I bother?
What has not already been said?

I tell her she will get ice-cream
Stuffed animals

She does not cry
I do not cry
With luck
It won't be necessary

She Farts on Her Toys
I have to remove the pink nailpolish
From my eight-year-old's finger and toenails
Because the surgeon will need to
Check the nailbeds in the open-heart surgery tomorrow
During the four hours that she is on the
Blood and Lung machine
That keeps her alive
While they freeze her heart, dead, and
Repair the two holes, one valve.

She told me it was alright,
After the doctor left the room yesterday,
She would not die, duh,
Because the priest had already
Blessed her on Sunday
With the blessing specially chanted over her
Only after he had made sure
He understood what, exactly, was being repaired.
Special prayer per particular ailment, I suppose.
Good and blessed, then, we go on.

"Don't be scared," he told her, "I'll pray for you.".
Yet when all was quiet last night,
She hid her head under her pillow,
I don't want to die!" She wailed.

But before I could find any adequate words,
Pat her back, lie properly,
She farted, nice and loud, and laughed
Hysterically, loudly, wildly,
"Oh, yeah," says I,
"I must warn the nurses,
This is Alicia, and
She farts on her toys.".
To which, of course,
She farted again and
Rolled about laughing and
Squealing with delight.

Alicia's Heart Surgery

We had to clear all the stuffies from her bedroom
Make room for the new ones
The hospital gift shop has so many
Tigers, Cheetahs, Lions, and
She loves big, strong, ferocious animals
She did not cry
Because crying would burst the stitches
All down her chest,
Seven-inches and dissolvable

She did not eat
Because the tubes went up from her stomach
Drained the chest cavity out to plastic bottles

She wanted to walk
Right after the heart surgery
In the Intensive Care Unit
Three IV’s and her arms restrained,
Still drugged, but fighting it

They said she was a "Star" patient
Gave her "Bravery Beads"
Took things out of her one by one
Half-hour after the last tube
They said we could go home

She’s better
She’ll be normal
They assure me
In a few months
After the swelling in her heart goes down
The liquid around the heart reduces
The aorta expands and allows more blood to the brain
Her energy returns

God, I hope so.

Doctors dissected my daughter
Handed her back, fragile, sewn up
It’s either a miracle of medicine
Or the audacity of modern man

I am waiting to decide which
And trying to stay calm

Note: I am happy to say that she is fine. Just a small murmur until the heart adjusts from being lopsided.

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