The eight longest days of my life were the eight days my daughter was in the ICU. She was just two weeks old and she picked up a respiratory virus that just wouldn’t let go of her.
I should have been OK. I had been a nurse for years; I’d worked in ICUs and with people with respiratory viruses just like hers. I had support; my husband was by my side every step of the way and relatives and friends swooped in to help. And I had great care; the doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists were extraordinary. But nothing prepared me for what it would feel like to be a parent of a kid struggling in the hospital. I was so exhausted, so scared, and so overwhelmed that I could barely speak for eight days. I repeatedly said, “So this is what it feels like for part of your heart to live outside your body.” Even after she recovered and long after we took her back home, the memories of that time take my breath away.
Now my daughter is almost 4. She’s happy, healthy, and likes to sing “Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright” as she kicks a soccer ball. But when I was approached by Born This Way Foundation leadership and given the opportunity to support a nonprofit building a kinder, braver world as a part of our #BeKind21 campaign this year, I thought about the parents whose kids are in the hospital right now. Specifically, parents of kids who are in the hospital for long periods of time, who, on top of everything else going on this year, are supporting their kids through cancer. Those parents should truly have all the love, kindness, and support possible. So I contacted my local hospital and found the Family Support Program of the Duke Pediatric Transplant and Cellular Therapy department. Their goal is to “care for, serve, and lighten the burdens” of the parents of kids getting cancer treatments. They provide inpatient and outpatient activities for kids and families, provide support to caregivers and siblings, and provide financial assistance to families undergoing a long journey through the transplant process – all at no charge. Duke Children’s sees over 170,000 children annually so that is a lot of caregivers and a lot of complex needs.
It was such an honor to support this incredible organization. They directly serve, they are flexible and responsive, and their work is so needed. I’m sure your local hospital has a similar program and, if not, just call your local hospital and ask if you can support the social workers, child life specialists, or pediatric units in your town. If you’ve ever known anyone who has gone through something like that, you’ll know how appreciated the effort and the funds are. What a privilege to support some of the families that are there now and spread some kindness their way.