The Superhero ‘Cape’ You Wear as the Parent of a Critically Ill Child

Recently, I found myself staring at a black and white photo on Facebook. I had never met the people in the photo in person, but I knew them. I knew their story. I knew how much strength was in them. Even though most people would never have to know that strength, I also would never want them to. And then, it came to me…

A real superhero’s cape is not just the one that attaches to some muscular man’s neck and flows in the wind. A real superhero’s cape looks more like this:

It’s probably yellow. Or maybe blue. (I think we had a blue one once.)

It’s definitely made of paper.

It almost always comes with a mesh hat to hold Mom or Dad’s hair in place.

No matter how many times you put it on, it feels like it weighs 50 pounds.

Once you put it on, you know there’s no turning back.

And, even though it holds so much value, once you no longer need it, you just toss it in the trash.

The superhero’s cape is the disposable surgical gown parents of critically ill children wear each day. It hides how scared you are when you watch them wheel your child away, but it doesn’t protect you from the reality of living with a sick child. Every time I see a mother or father in their cape, I think about how strong they are inside. They’re holding back every fear and emotion they have, while simultaneously holding on to every beautiful dream they have for their son or daughter’s future.

When the hospital staff sends our son behind closed doors, and our capes can finally come off, I always feel lighter. The feeling of suffocation ends, and it’s as if I’ve been given a jolt of super powers. These powers keep me from fearing the worst and give me an unending optimism that everything will be better when my sweet boy has been returned to me.

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I have to say I hate that cape/disposable gown. It’s bittersweet really, because some of the worst moments of my life have been while wearing it. However, the minute I put in on, I always know we are joining together to fight the forces of diseases. The cape lets them know who they are fighting against.

Super parents come in so many shapes, sizes and backgrounds and so many don’t have critically ill children. But today I’m talking about the ones who do. The ones I saw in the picture. I do wish I could share the picture I saw that day, but I want to be respectful of the family in it. However, I thought the picture I included with this story was most appropriate.

The Super Dad in our family going in for those disposable scrubs.

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