Myself and Theo in the hospital room we shared with Juliette and Benjamin, the other side of the curtain. I'd slept in my clothes.
During our harrowing weekend spent with my 8 week old son, Theo, in the pediatric ward at NYU, I struck up an unlikely friendship with the mother of the child sharing the room. Unlikely because we got off to the worst of starts. Theo's iv machine's alarm was going off, something that happened whenever the syringe of antibiotics was empty, and from behind the curtain dividing us I heard an irritated voice say, "Oh Lord, call them!" This annoyed me no end as there had been all manner of disruptive noises coming from that side of the room. I said, "I did earlier and they were on their way. Don't tell me what to do, I'll be sure to let you know when the noise is too much from your side." A little more back and forth occurred until the nurse came in and switched off the alarm. The lines were drawn, so when I had to cross them to go to the bathroom I thought I'd better make the peace. As I passed her I put my hand on her arm and said, "Look, we both have sick children in here, I'm sorry, it's the stress." She looked at me, her face softened and she apologized too. It wasn't long before we were laughing about our feistiness, like a couple of lionesses with our cubs. She told me I didn't look like the person she heard from behind the curtain and even went as far as to say I was pretty. I said, "I bet you didn't see yourself saying that 10 minutes ago."
Over the course of our time thrown together we talked a lot. Juliette's from Antigua and lives in the Bronx with her 13-year-old son Benjamin who has autism. He was in for an operation to help his sclerosis. Benjamin started having fits at the age of 4 months after a rare reaction to an inoculation. His daily fits took him from being a normal toddler walking and talking to losing the ability to do both. Juliette and I discussed losing sleep over our children and the fear that takes hold if something's wrong. Me with a matter of hours to refer to, her with 13 years. Juliette and I laughed a lot, it turned out our senses of humour were similar in their wickedness. Theo's fever was down and his invasive tests came back as normal allowing us to leave on Saturday night, so we said goodbye and embraced like old friends, both wishing each other and our children well. I almost felt guilty that my stay had been so brief when her's was still on-going.
An unlikely friendship from rocky beginnings.
Now that I've been home for a few days I've been thinking about Juliette a lot. She's had countless sleepless nights, innumerable hospital visits, she's still in hospital with Benjamin now, and she manages to laugh and joke with a stranger. And one she didn't like much at first. It got me thinking how nice it would be to give her a gift, an opportunity to treat herself. I'd really like to let her know people support her, people who don't even know her. I don't know, she's been on my mind and I want to do something nice for her. So I've set up a small fundraiser. I'm not expecting to raise so much it impacts on her financial situation, or pays her medical bills (though how wonderful would that be!), this is about her having a treat. I thought if we could all forgo a morning coffee and put it towards this, it might make her smile even broader - to know that people think she's doing a great job of taking care of her son alone.
I know you haven't met her but I'm sure you can imagine how tough it must be. I had a small taste of what life's been like for her and it was the worst day of my life. She told me she keeps her spirits up through laughter. Maybe we can be the ones to lift her spirits for her for a day.