October 22, 2009 We’re settled into the LAST room available at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Lights are out, Tanner is sleeping and no one is supposed to bother us for the next two hours. Admitting went so smoothly… usually on the night we admit, she never gets to bed before 10 pm, but they got all the admitting done quickly and she fell asleep at 7:30, right on time.
She felt so lousy earlier today, but perked up quite a bit after a dose of morphine. Now, it’s worn off again and she is feeling tired and bad. However, she did resolve the constipation issue before bedtime… nuff said about that.
We’ll be here for at least two days. We have to wait for all the test results to come back, which will take 48 hours, and they will want to see her counts come up some before they will let her go home. We can’t have any visitors; too risky. And, no fresh flowers when her counts are this low.
So much of her hair has fallen out today that she now has large bald patches. I doubt there will be anything left even after tomorrow. I can’t tell you what it feels like to keep having to comb out the dead hair that mats into the remaining hair. I filled a small trashcan up today once we got in the room. It’s rips me apart every time I have to do it. It’s like with each stroke of the hair filled comb, I hear a voice saying, “She has cancer. My baby has cancer.” I keep telling myself that it’s just hair and it will grow back, but it isn’t just hair. It’s the one thing that has kept me from being constantly, visually reminded that my child has cancer. Once she is bald, I won’t just know it, I’ll look at it every moment of every day.
After I combed so much hair off of her today, she put her hand to the back of her head and said, in a little panicked voice, “Mom, feel my head. You can feel it.” I told her that I didn’t think it would last more than a few days and I thought it was all going to come out. She asked if I would bring her wigs to the hospital tomorrow and I said I would. She said she was scared that kids would make fun of her and I told her I didn’t think they would; that her friends knew it would fall out and that their Moms will tell them before they see her so they won’t be surprised.
It’s oddly peaceful here in the hospital at night. Sure, you get interrupted by nurses taking vitals and noises in the hall, but that’s all become so familiar to us, that’s it’s comforting in a strange way. Here, I know she is the safest she can be. It’s certainly not 100% safe; most kids that die from leukemia die in the hospital. But, this is where doctors have the best chance of catching something early and this is where everyone she encounters wears a mask and gloves. It makes me feel better for her to be here when her immune system is so low.
The Children’s Hospital is wonderful; the most comfortable hospital I’ve ever been in. I sleep on a sofa that pulls out to a comfortable twin-sized bed; even John’s long body fits on this thing. The nurses are kind and very quiet, for the most part. The food is good with a huge menu you can order from. Tanner can get videos, games, crafts and all manner of fun things delivered to her room. We can’t leave the room to play in the playroom or go outside because of her counts, but they will bring us almost anything we want. They are kind and compassionate people, despite the fact that they see sick kids every day, and they recognize that a sick kid means a “sick” family and take care of parents’ needs as well.
Tonight, I will hear the lifeflight helicopter land on the roof more times than I care to think about. I can’t hear it without being reminded of Tanner’s time in the helicopter and I pray fervently for the child in it and the family who cannot fly with him or her and the pain I know they are going through not knowing what is happening to their child while in the air. I know it was the longest 25 minutes of my life when Tanner was on that helicopter. We knew she was in the hands of some of the most highly trained trauma physicians in the world, but it is still horrible not to be there. Thankfully, Tanner doesn’t remember it and I pray that no child does.
We’re lucky to have such resources so close by.
John has delivered us our necessities and my Mom has arrived to take care of Jake tomorrow so John can go to work. We’re tucked in and comfortable and I’m getting ready to watch last night’s espisode of Glee on my computer (Aren’t computers amazing?). I’m less terrified than I was earlier today when we first got here, so I think I’ll sleep tonight and I think Tanner will too.