Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fei Fei is faring well.

Thanks to a friend of a friend who called the police station in Shanghai handing Fei Fei's case, I have gotten word that she is doing remarkably well, all things considered. Her medical care is being paid for, and some relief organizations have been collecting donations for her family so they can be with her. Alas, I won't be bringing that angelic face into my pink spare room but I am elated for her to be with her mommy and daddy. Spare the child heartbreak. I have always had a soft spot for the ailments and tribulations of children, well before I was married or had kids of my own.

I spent about 10 years volunteering with Care Partners in Minneapolis. I was a family volunteer, meaning I spent 3 months or more with one family whose child was enduring a last ditch effort bone marrow transplant. We treated children who battled leukemia and rare metabolic disorders like Hurler's Syndrome. I spent time with each family doing whatever I would do if it were my best friend in the hospital. Go grocery shopping. Babysit. Bring in videos. Prepare home cooked meals. Pick up family members at the airport. You name it. I became a part of that family, and they became a permanently woven fiber into the fabric that makes me the mother I am today. My time as a family volunteer was a privilege and something I count among my most memorable and meaningful experiences.

Jana was my first patient. Just shy of 18. A cheerleader. Goofy in a self deprecating way that most teenage girls aren't mature enough to embrace. Loved Troy Aikman. Cracked me up teasing me about how old and outdated my tastes were. Loved fashion and movies. Humored me watching my favorite movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's (She didn't see the appeal.). Teased her little brother Mark and was starting to see the cute factor in older brother Kent's friends. Born on Christmas day. Died before she hit 18.

Jana's mother sent me a flower from her casket with the most tender note I have ever received. I still have that pink rose, 12 years later. Not a Christmas morning goes by that I don't say a silent little prayer for Jana and her family.

Then there was one year old Kate from Tennessee. I was in the room when she died in her daddy's arms. He held her, silent tears streaming, dousing his collar, for an hour. Or maybe more. Her mother and I sat silently, enveloped in sadness, awe, and feelings that I cannot comprehend now that I am a mother myself.

I have a lump in my throat as I write this and can't let it out for fear of never finishing this post.

Dennis was 10. He loved karate and baseball and got easily frustrated with me because I am hopeless when it comes to sports. He laughed easily with his four siblings. He drew darling images of simple things that only children can see so whimsically. I still have the snowman Christmas card his family sent me after he died. He was buried in his baseball uniform.

There was 11 year old April from Texas. She would blow dry herself in the Minnesota winter to keep warm. She had no hair due to treatments so hearing the hair dryer was alarming at first. She loved rice krispy treats. Young April taught me a life lesson in fortitude, confidence, and moxie when she peppered her bald head with Harley tattoos on the eve of her grandma's visit. All because her grandmother sent a wig ahead of time, lest she see April without her hair.

Then there was Rachel. I met her when she was two. The first time I met Rachel she pointed to her feet and said, "Shoe." A girl after my own heart. I became very close to her whole family and had the privilege of being included in private, intimate moments. They have visited us twice in various cities we have lived in. Their son's diaper was the first I ever changed. Rachel still has her lioness' share of struggles. She's the only patient of mine in 10 years of volunteering who is still alive.

I treasure Bird and Deal's health. Perhaps I am neurotic and paranoid at every sniffle and cough because I experienced the sickest of sick children in my earlier years. My heart aches thinking about these families. Honestly, I don't think I'd have the strength to be a Care Partner now. I would be a veritable puddle when I should be a pillar. As crazy as my boys make me, I'm just glad that they have the sound health to leap, wrestle, taunt, flop, tease, torment, provoke, duel, dance, laugh, hug, and kiss. My body is their body too.

If Dirt & Noise sparks nothing else in you, please, please, please register to be a bone marrow donor. The Janas, Kates, Dennises, Aprils, and Rachels need you. Link
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Anonymous said...

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Bill Beck
Project Mgr.
The Best Of Blog Awards

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on FeiFei! And congratulations on your nomination. I'll be sure to vote!

P.O.M. said...

Wow. You may not have the strength to be a Care Partner now, but it's amazing that you spent 10 years doing it. That is so incredible. Thanks for sharing those stories.

Congrats on your nomination.

Convertible Girl said...

Thanks for the reminder about how much I have to be thankful for. I'm so glad that there are volunteers to help families in those situations.