I’m standing in a small room. The walls are white. Pictures of colorful, cartoon-like fish hang around me. Across the room is an exam table and a plethora of machines, none of which I know the purpose of.
I can hear my oldest daughter, Laila, singing; her voice bounces off the stale walls. I see my husband sitting quietly in the corner. I feel my baby, Ceci, pressed close against me, her warm skin resting next to mine. A diaper and her animal print blanket are the only things she has on, and although I’m aware of my surroundings, I’m a million miles away.
I’m in a place where x-rays and lab work don’t exist. A place where EKG’s and karyotypes are foreign words. I’m where I was a month ago — a different place, a safer, more comfortable and more peaceful spot.
I tell myself this isn’t happening. I’m not at a children’s hospital. I’m not preparing to meet with a cardiologist. This isn’t my life. This isn’t our life. This is my mantra. I repeat these words over and over during our 30-minute wait.
As my eyes rise from the floor to the doorway, they stop on a tall, towering figure. A man in blue stands in front of me. “I’m here for Miss Cecilia,” he says with a smile.
I take a deep breath, and I try to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for whatever is to come next.
We walk down a long corridor. People type diligently at computers, doctors walk quickly with eyes fixed forward, and nurses smile at Cecilia and say, “Look at that red hair” or “What pretty blue eyes.” I want their words to make me feel better. I want to feel anything other than pain and sadness and extreme worry, but that’s all I feel. A mixture of despair and numbness.
The man ushers us into the room where he will be performing the ECHO. “I’m Mike,” he says with another smile. Half-heartedly, I introduce myself and my family.
As Mike takes Ceci out of my arms, she begins to whimper, and as he lays her on the table for her ultrasound, she begins to cry. My heart is racing. “I just want this to be over. I want things to go back to how they were.” These thoughts and many more run through my head.
Ceci’s cry continues to grow in intensity and so do my emotions. And then, something unexpected happens.
Mike, bends down low next to Cecilia, and in a soft voice, he begins to sing: “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round,” Mike sings. Ceci’s cry stops. “All through the town,” he coos sweetly, and Ceci smiles. Her blue eyes are transfixed on him, and he looks lovingly back at her.
While Mike sings, I cry.
This is my reality.
My child is at the cardiologist; my child is having an ECHO done on her heart. I’m standing in a children’s hospital. And amid all of these unhappy things, I’m witnessing the most beautiful thing ever: someone loving my child. A complete stranger treating my child with unimaginable kindness.
For the next 30 minutes, Mike sings to my Ceci. He talks softly to her. He treats her with the kindness that all people should experience, but rarely do especially in a hospital setting.
What I saw that day wasn’t just good bedside manner. It wasn’t just good medicine. It was more than merely completing a task at work. I saw compassion and empathy and love, and most important, sincere kindness.
Mike, thank you for loving my child. Thank you for showing me that kindness is all around me. Thank you for teaching me that even in our darkest moments, there’s beauty and comfort to be found.
About halfway through the ultrasound, I glance down at Ceci. Her tiny hand is wrapped tightly around one of Mike’s fingers. As the ECHO comes to an end, she doesn’t want to let go, and I understand why.
Because people like Mike are one in a million.
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