Normally I'm not much for poetry. I enjoy reading it but writing it... I'ts not what I do. Maybe two or three poems a year, certainly never shared. Today was a very different day.
I'm smiling, sitting in a hospital
on the children's floor
I'm afraid I won't know how to fix
when a little girl walks in.
"Ashley!" they cry
as Doctor Dave high-fives her
and she talks to him about Santa Claus.
I listen, smiling, wathcing
the light sparkle off the shimmering paste
in her knit cap
where her hair should be.
I'm at a go-live for Epic. I'm in central Illinois, about two hours south of Chicago. It's been a hard trip.
This is my third trip for Epic but it's my first time being stationed on a pediatrics floor. Mostly it's the same as a regular floor, except I have to be buzzed in and out of the security doors. That and the children. Despite being in the hospital, for most of these trips I have very little to do with the patients. I barely see them. A glance here and there. When they check in or are discharged, walking past their rooms while the doors are open (which is most of the time to facilitate the nurses' observations), and every now and then I'll be asked to help solve a problem on a portable computer in a patient's room. But for the most part it's a patient free-experience. They're just there.
And by and large that's how it is on pediatrics. Except today there was a little girl there. She was eleven years old and her bald head was hidden under a hat. Chemo. Cancer. And she was smiling and laughing and the doctors and nurses were laughing with her. Not fake laughter either. And she talked about Santa Claus. How many eleven year olds do you know who talk about Santa Claus? I hope it's in remission. The caner I mean, not the belief in Santa Claus.
It lasted about fifteen seconds and it's been in my mind for over twelve hours. I hadn't really thought of the patients before. Most of the ones I saw were old. Very old. I should identify with that, I should recognize "that could be my grandmother," or "one day that will be me," but I don't. Through arrogant, youthful disconnect I can look at an old man with failing kidneys and say, "that's part of life. That's the inevitability of aging and it should be treated but it should be accepted with grace." This is, of course, bullshit. It hurt when my grandparents died and I can't contemplate the thought of my parents' death in anything but abstract terms. But there it is.
This little girl - Ashley - hurt. This wasn't an old woman and the end of her life. There was nothing natural about this, and certainly nothing graceful. It made me sad. It made me angry. I feel... I don't know what I feel. I want to cry and I can't. I want to go back to school and become a doctor. I want to save her. I don't even know what's wrong and I want to save her. I don't like the world very much right now.
I wish I could fall asleep.