Sunday, February 02, 2014

Harsh Realities

A lot of the time, we forget that we're on the oncology ward. Shabbat, in particular, we have our meals, we talk and laugh with other parents and kids, and we forget the terrible reality of what goes on in these rooms, the wars waged on these tiny bodies. But then, something happens, and we crash back into the grim fact that our children are fighting for their lives.

Right now, in the room at the very end of the hall, is a 19-year-old boy named Max. He is dying.

We used to see Max coming into the outpatient clinic for treatments. In fact, I remember one morning, a nurse asked him how he was feeling, and he answered. "Ok. Great, actually," as he walked past, almost more to himself than to the nurse. And I smiled as I pushed Adi in his wheelchair, because Max sounded a little bit surprised and a lot happy to realize that he felt great, actually.

A few weeks ago, they admitted Max onto the bone marrow transplant ward, but a few days later, he was in a room on the regular ward, which didn't seem to be a good sign. Worse, they had removed the second bed from that room, making it into a single. Max slept all day. His mother -- he had never brought his parents to the outpatient center -- sat by his side all day and all night. I never saw her sleep. I never saw her cry. She would push him in his wheelchair so that he could smoke a cigarette outside every few hours.

A few days ago, they moved Max into the room at the very end of the hall.

In the middle of the night, Adi's IVAC started beeping. I left the room to find a nurse, but both the night nurses were in Max's room. I waited -- 5, 10, 15 minutes -- until they came out of the room, one nurse with her arm around the other's shoulders. They reset Adi's IVAC and the beeping stopped. The silence kept me awake, and on one of my outings to the hallway, I saw Max's mother leaning against the wall, the slightest shake to her shoulders.

"It's a matter of days," one of the student nurses told me the other day. "Today, tomorrow, the next day."

I see his mother every day. Every time, I think I should say something, but what? I'm so sorry your son is dying. I'm so scared when I see you. Can I get you a cup of tea? There is nothing I can say, so I say nothing. I do nothing. But I see her, and I think of her son, of Max, and I feel something catch in my chest, and I remember where we are.


Crystal T. said...

So sad. And, it can't hurt to offer some tea. I'm sure every kindness is at least a tiny bit of balm.

shulamis said...

I dont even have words to respond- just wanted u to know i read it. Feeling the tightness in my chest. Virtual hug.

Mara said...

Oh Abbi. I don't know what to say, but I didn't want to say nothing. I'm so sorry for all the multitude of harsh realities you face.

Heather said...

Hi Abbi! My name is Heather and I was hoping you could answer a question I have about your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)