Children's Hospital in BostonA hospital is an amazing confluence of emotion, community, and technology.

Particularly with urgent and life-threatening conditions, the patient and family arrive with a paradoxical juxtaposition of fear and hope: fearing the worst, yet hoping for the best.

The medical team, collected and placid, applies the best of civilization’s medical know-how and technology with amazing effectiveness, striving to preserve the quality of life and often defying death to do so.

Initiated in a surgical or Intensive Care waiting room, strangers share their respective ordeals, comfort each other through the setbacks, and celebrate the progress.  Tied by the vulnerability of being human, so exposed within the hospital, they create community.

I can think of no other institution where humanity’s highest accomplishments and aspirations, the goodness of people, and spontaneous community play out in so many unsung stories every day.

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Father’s Day reflection

On Father’s Day last year, my daughter Andrea had been home from the hospital for one day. The prior week she had undergone two surgeries to remove a tumor from the right frontal lobe of her brain. This sudden and serious experience made Father’s Day much more meaningful for me than it had ever been, transcending the timeworn veneer of the Hallmark card and new tie.

I captured my feelings in a posting on a Yahoo! Groups web site, a web site that a friend had started to efficiently inform our family and friends of the latest news. Today, I reread my words and find them to be as true and important as a year ago. You may find them helpful in shaping your perspective about what’s important.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 – For Father’s Day, Andrea gave me wonderful gifts of joy and a few life lessons:

Gratitude – One of the paradoxes of living is that our normal day-to-day routines often dull our awareness of the miracle of life. The seemingly simple biological processes of our bodies, the communities of people we see every day, even a sunny day become ordinary. This past week, nothing was ordinary nor could be taken for granted. And so we became profoundly grateful for every positive step, each gift we received, everything “normal” that could have been otherwise. I hope we can maintain this awareness and sensitivity as the days and weeks pass.

Equanimity – Andrea’s acceptance and outlook in the face of this unbelievable challenge is such an inspiration. There were moments that her spirit faltered – when we first learned of the tumor, when we were told of the need for a second surgery – yet she quickly bounced back and went on to transcend her own circumstances and reach out to others in the hospital. Her strong will and positive attitude carried us.

The Power of Support – When told of Andrea’s tumor, our world immediately turned upside down. We felt so ill prepared and alone. As word spread and people responded, an incredible community of support materialized to sustain us. And more than I expected, this web site has been amazing: stealing a few minutes from the non-stop hospital routine to read a few posts, we have been reassured and comforted by the outpouring of well wishes, prayers, positive energy, and offers of assistance that you have sent our way.

No Absolutes – I have learned there are no absolutes in brain surgery. You ask questions wanting black and white answers of assurance, yet the doctors and nurses can’t provide them. Did you get it all? Will there be any impairment or change? What’s the long-term prognosis? The answers we get are gray, probabilistic. Andrea’s outlook is excellent and better than we dared hope for a week ago. Nonetheless, she will be followed closely for at least five to ten years.

This morning, reflecting upon the experience of the past week, I am making two resolutions as a parent: sincerely telling Andrea and Grant that I love and appreciate them every single day, and focusing on the “big rocks” and not sweating the small stuff so much.

This is the best Father’s Day ever. I am blessed with two wonderful kids.

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Anniversary reflections

Piano recitalOne year ago today, we learned – quite suddenly and shockingly – that our daughter Andrea had a brain tumor. What began as a parent’s worst nightmare became a miracle as we lived through the following blurred days and the subsequent months.

Andrea’s piano recital last night prompted these reflections.

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Photo: Between brain surgeries, Andrea gave a piano recital to the nurses and other children on 9-North. One of the hospital staff turned the pages for her.

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