Thursday, January 23, 2014

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts."  Cochise, Chiricahua Leader

Next Thursday the seven of us soldiered on, and walked into CHOC Hospital and rode the elevator to the 3rd floor.  There was Shirley, as bright and cheerful and kind as ever, welcoming us back to her kids.  Off my kids went, more timidly than that first week, though, into the rooms to work with whoever they found inside.

I was wandering along the hallway when a little bald girl about 9 or 10 years old sauntered down the hall towards me.  She was dragging along side of her a very high pole-on-wheels-contraption that had a bag of something attached at the top.  A narrow tube was sticking out of her forearm, stringing up to that bag.  She kind of looked me up-and-down, and said, "Who are you?"

"I'm Mrs. Waldron...  I'm a teacher who brought some of my high school kids along to help you guys with your school homework.  Do you have any homework that you might need help with?"

Again, she looked me up-and-down, trying to decide, I guess, if I was worth talking to.  Then she smiled... then she
laughed... and then she grabbed my hand and said, "Wanna see something?"


So she grabbed the pole with one hand and me with the other, and off we went!  She giggled when she talked, and her eyes were always smiling.  She threw open every closed door along the way, explaining what the room was used for. People behind those closed doors would look up suddenly, frowning, then see it was her, and grin!   Every single nurse or doctor or coat-and-tie guy who walked down that hall stopped to talk to her, to rub her head, to tell her a joke, and she'd laugh.  She'd tell me about them as we walked on.  This little fireball knew everything about this place, and she was loved by everyone, and I loved her, too...  Just that quick, we were friends!

I wanted a Diet Coke as we walked... no I craved a Diet Coke, but this was a hospital, and they just don't install Coke machines along the walls of a hospital.  My new friend who knew everything there was to know about the 3rd floor seemed like the person to ask.  "Is there any place to get a Diet Coke around here?"

She grabbed my hand tighter, and said, "C'mon..."  She rushed me and the pole into the elevator, pushed a button, the doors closed, and we were going down!  That scared me...  "Can you just leave like this?  Don't you have to tell someone?" I asked, thinking I'd be thrown in jail for kidnapping  or ...  I don't know what!  She looked up and laughed soooo hard with that twinkle in her eye, an said, "Everyone knows ME!"

We landed in the basement, found the cafeteria, and I got my Diet Coke. I was happy.  And she was happy because she had a new floor to show me, and it was fun!  (In case you're wondering if I was worrying about my students upstairs...  no, I wasn't!  I was having a terrific time with this little bald bundle of energy wrapped in a robe, hauling me and a pole all over the hospital!)

We got back on the elevator, and when we got to the 3rd floor, I found that no one had missed either of us at all.

Suddenly, the little one stopped running for the first time since I had met her, and she whispered to me, "Ya know what?"


"I'm not going to die anymore!"

"That's terrific!  I'm soooo glad for you!"

"How long do you think I've been here?"

"I don't know...  3 months?"

"A year!  But I'm going home real soon!  Would you read me a story?'

"Have you ever read my favorite book of all, "Horton Hatches the Egg?"


And that's what we did.


The hour was over, and I went to collect my students, and all six in six different rooms asked if they HAD to go...  They wanted to stay longer!  Some of the children were asking math questions, some were cuddled up next to a highschooler listening to a story,  Some were laughing...  All were entranced!  Well, of course, we didn't have to go!  There was still an hour before dinner would be served, so we stayed...

We seven went back every week for the rest of that year.  And one of us, David, a staight-A student enrolled in 4 Advanced Placement classes, including my own A.P. Lit class, came to me to tell me that he'd been accepted at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, but he'd decided to attend Harvard.  David said that he'd always planned on becoming a medical doctor, and now he knew what his specialty was going to be - pediatrics!  And years later, David made it his business to surprise me about a week before our high school was out for the summer.  He wanted me to know  that he'd made it into med school!  And I KNOW this...  David's out there somewhere helping kids get better...  I know that!

And I also know that there's a grown woman out there somewhere, maybe with her own kids, and she has a twinkle in her eye, and she's loved by everyone who is lucky enough to cross her path.

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