I hated the place. I loved the place. I grieve it.

Post date: Jun 4, 2012 5:31:44 PM

Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

We lived there for 300 plus days. I could go back and get an exact count, but after 300, it just seemed trivial. After you stay in a place for any amount of time, you leave part of yourself there. The memories, some good, some hauntingly bad, dwell within its walls…

-The time we had to wrap Natalie up in a blanket to be able to learn how to put a feeding tube down her nose. It took less than a half an hour, but the memory haunts my dreams.

-Every time we held her down for labs. Dang labs. I hated every part of watching my baby girl cry. Every time.

-The PICU. The place of nightmares and miracles. Her blood pressure climbed higher and higher. Her heart rate was plummeting. J and I exchanged terrified looks on our faces. And then there was Dr. Axelrod one of her surgeons, he was helping to pump albumin in as the nurses were administering bags (how many bags, 3 in that short time?) of blood. Would she come out of this one? Would Dr. A bring her back from surgery? Gone were the smiles from his face. Gone the jovial Dr. we'd grown to love. He looked worried. And then he was gone with our baby. We are now in the waiting room and in walks Dr. Superina. Wait. Dr. Axelrod took her back. This can’t be good. Why is Dr. Superina here? Oh, Dear God, this can’t be good. No, I don’t want to talk in a private room. Is she dead? Tell me here. “The bleeding stopped. She is OK.”

-The NICU. There we met a little boy who had just had surgery for the very condition that my sister died of. “Transposition of the Great Vessels.” And he was going to be OK…

-The community shower on 6 west. Only one room on the floor had a private shower. The rest of the time we used the community one. Where we had to walk to the nurse’s station and check the clear Rubbermaid shoe box for the key on the big silver ring. Thank God I learned the art of shower flip flops in college.

-To the nurse: “Natalie is sleeping. We are going to get dinner.” Half hour later, we come back to find her covered in blood. After my heart restarted, I checked her IV. She’d pulled it out and her blood transfusion was covering her crib.

-Remember all of those times in IR (interventional radiology) where they had to flush and replace her PTC tubie? (PTC - percutaneous hepatic cholangiogram tube that stuck out of her belly) How I wish I would have kept one of those white jump suits that Natalie said made me look like a bunny. She was 3.

-Remember the airplane mural letting us know that we’d arrived on 6 West?

-Remember the time that the dogs came and visited? Rainbow. That was the dog’s name.

-10am. Time for Blue’s Clues.

-5 West. Home of the Brown Family life center and computers for updating the website before wifi.

-Cornbeef hash and hardboiled eggs. Breakfast of champions and my husband.

-Smilie face fries, bacon, and panniecakes. Favorite meals of Natalie for every single stay.

-Our room was the most relaxing place on the floor. We had a noise maker soothing us with crashing waves during every nap time. Nurses would come in, just to escape and chat.

-Natalie learned to walk on the floors of 6 West. We got her a pair of shoes with Princesses on them from the thrift store across the street. They were size four and had zippers rather than ties, which helped for swollen, unused, baby feet, just learning to go. Her nurses cheered her on.

-When she couldn’t walk, Family Life Dept. would get her a play mat for her room, so she wasn’t confined to a crib all day. She preferred the crib. Her My Little Pony’s with the magnetic feet could be stuck to the sides of it.

-The duck feet leading the way to Radiology.

-I hated that stupid noisy ball machine in Radiology. That wasn’t art. It was an abomination of noise pollution. But then, Natalie would watch the balls drop, and go around and around and around the circle loops, and get caught in the turtle’s mouth and then travel up the ball escalator back up again and giggle. Stupid ball machine.

-Fish tank channel.

-Putting my contacts in paper cups that first night because we didn’t know we’d be staying the night.

-Red Eye. Coffee with a shot of espresso. Drink of genius doctors (Dr. Whittington) and husbands that sleep in waiting rooms.

-The lymphoma didn’t spread to her bone marrow. The marrow biopsies were not what we expected. Such pain.

-Remember the little ones that would cry with only the nurses to comfort them? I never left my child’s side for more than an hour. Ever.

On Saturday, June 9 the hospital is moving and is becoming Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Children’s Memorial Hospital – thank you. You gave us hope. We are a family because of you.

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