Saturday, 21 March 2009

Getting Personal III

One thing that has changed in hospitals is that they don't wake you up at dawn for whatever reason they used to. You may get woken up at other times but that's on a medicinal 'need to know' basis. Because of his illness crossed with being a teenager, my son sleeps on and on and on. Unfortunately Catholic guilt stops me from lying in the bed next to him, even if I am reading, even if I am tired too.

So when I hear the staff starting their changeover circuit, I get up, fold the bed back into its space and tidy up, as if in readiness for a military inspection; after all this I don't want them to think I am a bad mother.

After saying hello and finding out which nurse is 'ours' for the day (they are all lovely but they have their own ways and we have learnt to adapt ours) I head out into the main hospital and down to the restaurant for breakfast.

It started off feeling somewhat unnerving, knowing that everyone around you is either staff or other parents staying with their children on the wards. You can tell the difference; the staff are normally sitting together, tucking into breakfast, chatting or watching the tv, whilst the parents, all at separate tables, push beans and bacon that they don't really want but do really need around their plates, or stare into space over the rim of a cup of machine-made but not bad coffee. Other parents stand squashed against the window trying to get a signal on their mobile; to make some contact with the outside world.

I think of all the children on our ward in isolation and see their parents here locked in their own isolation. They avoid eye contact at any cost, I know, I tried and gave up. Perhaps their isolation is part of the defence mechanism that is 'parent living with sick child'. To look at someone and see that they are also 'parent living with sick child' is not a consolation here. Because the fact that you are here means that you have failed; you did not do the right thing; you were not the good mother or father. And you need all your energy to redeem yourself, to drag that child back to health through wishes, prayers and promises.

Rubbish? On the outside, of course it is, but here in isolation it is difficult to see with eyes of grace. Would it be better if we did get brought to sit at the same table; to share our stories and our fears; to be a community of prayer and wishes and promises? I believe it would but who would do it? Even the regulars are transitory, and I am too busy staring over my own cup of coffee.

Afterwards I call into the Chapel which serves the various denominations of faith and really serves none because it has made itself so anonymous, but it is quiet and I like to think I carry my God space with me. There are several chaplains, who will come and sit quietly beside you and maybe ask if you are alright. Their dedication and desire to comfort is apparent - it just occured to me to wonder why they aren't sitting in the restaurant.

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