Altering Love

How CHLA Makes Very Ill Children Feel Comfort and Security in a Time of Need

By Nurse "Sanz"

I would like to share the most life-changing, profound experience of my life.

It happened at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where I met and cared for a little boy who inevitably stole my heart.

He was waiting for a heart transplant, and spent a year and four months in our unit before his unfortunate departure from this world. I spent the better part of this time caring for him every shift I worked. We call this “primary” care.

Through this old little soul, I learned how to love without restraint, fearless in the face of adversity, and unconditionally. Every day when I walked into his room at 7:30 in the morning, I would find a pretending-to-sleep 8-year-old, who could barely keep his eyes closed through his choked back laughter.

He did this in anticipation of my supposed "incognito" sneaking up on him to tickle him and kiss him on the cheek. This was our "good morning sunshine" routine.

Due to the length of his stay, his mom returned to caring for other children at home, and his dad and grandmother also had to return to work, which left "little man" alone for 14 hours a day, five days a week. During this time I was afforded the honor of helping him brush his teeth, dress, do homework, eat, and play the most entertaining games of my life, both imaginary and real.

He was the best friend I've ever had. I tried to move heaven and earth to fulfill his every need until the day he passed. I've often wondered if he knew how much I cared for him.

One day another parent of a neighboring child -- whom I also loved and cared for -- told me about a conversation with "little man" that she'd had:

Mom: "I want to put up Christmas lights for my daughter but the powers that be say no."

Little Man: "Oh don't worry. When Sanci comes to work, just tell her. She can fix anything."

This was only the beginning of my comprehension of our bond.

In his last days, as his health deteriorated rapidly, there was a stretch in which I'd had several days off. He asked his stepmother for me and she said to him, "She works on Thursday." His response was, "Good, I don't think I can wait much longer."

My next day at work, he was suffering, half-conscious and scared. During a bout of horrifying pain, he experienced a brief moment of lucidity. Our eyes met and I shared with him these words: "I am here. I am not going to leave you, and I promise I won't let anyone hurt you."

Exactly five minutes later, he left this world in my arms. It took me a long time to heal. To this day, I miss him terribly, but I am comforted by the place in my heart where his laughter lives on forever. I never knew I could love that much.

Thank you, my little sensei, for teaching me a lifetime's worth of wisdom. 

Related Topics