I'm standing in a small room. The walls are white. Pictures of colorful, cartoon-like fish hang on the wall. Across the room from me is an exam table and a plethora of machines, none of which I know the purpose of.
I can hear Laila singing; her voice bounces off the walls. I see Brent sitting quietly in the corner. I feel Ceci pressed close against me; her warm skin resting against mine. A diaper and her animal print blanket are the only things she has on, and although I am aware of my surroundings, I am a million miles away.
I am a in a place where x-rays and lab work don't exist. A place where EKG's and karyotypes are foreign words. I am where Ali was a month ago; a different place, a safer, more comfortable and more peaceful spot.
"This isn't happening," I say to myself. I am not at a children's hospital. I am not preparing to meet with a Cardiologist. "This isn't my life. This isn't our life." This was my mantra. I repeated it over and over during our thirty minute wait.
My thoughts were suddenly disrupted, and I was jolted back to reality by the sound of footsteps and the creaking of a door. I turn towards the door in a slow and methodical manner, trying to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for whatever was to come next.
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. Cecilia is a mommy's girl, through and through. She despises being with anyone but me. I nervously think about how she will react to a stranger...how will she respond to this man she has never seen before?
I smile at him and secretly prepare for a meltdown.
We walk down a long corridor. People type diligently at computers, doctors walk quickly with eyes fixed forward, 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 wish that in that moment, all I had to think about was my child's hair color or eyes. 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," the man says with another smile. Half-heartedly, I introduce myself, Brent, and Laila.
Mike looks at Laila and asks her if she would like to watch a movie. Of course, Laila excitedly takes him up on his offer, and I thank him. "It was nice of him to think of her," I said to myself. So often, when a child has a sibling who is sick, it is easy to feel ignored. I appreciated that he took the time to think of Laila.
However, now came the more pressing issue...Ceci. As Mike took Ceci out of my arms, she began to whimper, and as he laid her on the table for her ultrasound, she began to whimper some more. My heart began to race. "I just want this to be over. I want things to go back to how they were. " These thoughts and many more ran through my head.
As Ceci's cry grew in intensity, so did my emotions, and then, something unexpected happened.
Mike, bent down low next to Cecilia, and in a soft voice, he began to sing: "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round," Mike sang. Ceci's cry stopped. "All through the town," he cooed sweetly, and Ceci smiled. Her blue eyes were transfixed on him, and he looked lovingly back at her.
While Mike sang, I cried. This is my reality. My child is at the cardiologist, my child is having an ECHO done on her heart. I am standing in a children's hospital. And amid all of these unhappy things, I am witnessing the most beautiful thing ever: someone loving my child. A complete stranger treating my child with unimaginable kindness. There is no better feeling as a parent, then to observe your child being appreciated and truly loved by others.
For the next thirty minutes, Mike sang to my Ceci. He talked softly to her. He treated her with the kindness that all people should experience, especially in a hospital setting, but rarely do.
What I saw 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 importantly 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 is beauty and comfort to be found.
About halfway through the ultrasound, I looked down at Ceci. Her tiny hand was wrapped tightly around one of Mike's fingers. As the ECHO came to an end, she did not want to let go, and I understood why, because people like Mike are one in a million.