To the Hospital Volunteer Who Watched Over My Daughter When I Felt Alone
My daughter, Karis, was lying in a hospital bed at 9 months old after having half of her liver removed. She stopped crying days earlier and only the sounds of doctors, nurses and beeps filled her room. She was awake, and I hadn’t slept in days.
With every new beep, my eyes flew to the monitors and then to her little body. Still the same blank stare in her eyes. The sparkle I knew was missing. She laid trapped in her own mind after days of screaming for my help and me standing idly by as the doctors, nurses and medical students poked and prodded her.
How do you make a baby understand that the doctors were trying to help? That the pain she was in was to save her life? She fought for days and when her fight turned to a blank expression, I was alone. I refused to sleep for extended periods of time. I refused to leave her side. I hadn’t eaten real food in days. Karis and I were both imprisoned in our own seemingly hopeless maze.
The doctors and nurses grew weary of telling me to go to the cafeteria to eat something or to just lie down and sleep. They taped paper over the monitors and tried to teach me just to look at her, but her blank stare into the ceiling above day in and day out terrified me. I was alone with her. The cafeteria was too far away. And then you came.
You were maybe 24 years old, a slender woman with kind eyes. A volunteer and complete stranger. I still don’t know your name or how you knew to come into our hospital room. With your kind voice, you somehow convinced me to go eat some lunch and that you would watch over her and never leave her side even for a moment.
I remember your patience and grace as I nervously fumbled around to figure out how I was going to leave that room and trust a total stranger with such an important task. You just pulled up a chair next to her bed and talked to her like you were old friends, and in that moment I thought, “Maybe she will watch her the way you will.”
So for the first time in days, I left that small, cold room and ate a real meal. I saw a little of the outside as I walked back to her room. I was still a little nervous about leaving her with a stranger, so I got back to the room as soon as I could. But when I got there, you were holding her hand. You smiled at me, got up, told Karis to get better soon and to keep fighting, and then you quietly left.
I can’t assume what you may have thought you did that day. But I can tell you what you did during those 30 minutes: You gave me hope. You gave me a chance to clear my head enough to remember the toys I brought with me to the hospital. The toys that brought the sparkle back into her eyes and brought her back to me from her blank stare.
You let me know I wasn’t alone in my fight with her and that she played a part in it, too. I just had to keep fighting with her. Not that I wasn’t before, but I had to fight differently. I had been fighting the tumors that put her there. I had been fighting with myself for not being able to take her place. But as far as bringing her back to me — I was begging. She was somewhere in that blank stare, and I needed to fight to find her and bring her back. You gave me the hope that maybe that was possible. You taking 30 minutes to just sit with her and talk to her was a game-changer for us.
I don’t know if I ever talked about that moment before. That was almost three years ago. Karis is fine now. She’s a 3-year-old with a wild imagination and an attitude that fits her fighting spirit, but there is this kindness in her that reminds me of you and all of those who have helped her along the way.
I doubt you remember her or me, but I am so thankful for you and your simple act. You saved us from our internal prison and brought us hope. With so many prayers and with your help, we’re both here, happy, healthy and blessed beyond measure. Thank you to the volunteer who chose to help a stranger. Wishing you all of the best wherever you are.
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