"Really, A.?" I asked. "That's great. How come?"
"Because all the people here are really nice," he said. Well, that's an advertisement waiting to happen for Lutheran General Children's Hospital.
"Also," he continued, "I feel safe here."
OK, first of all, how great is it that this child understands his own feelings and articulates them so...well, so articulately?
And secondly, isn't the irony almost too much? That he feels safe at the hospital?
This is a boy who thinks about health and safety concerns more than the average 11-year-old. He went through a phase a few years ago when he talked about death and dying constantly. "Will you still think about me when I'm dead?" he'd ask. Or I'd put him back to bed for the eleventy-seventh time, and tell him to go to sleep, and he'd say, "I don't want to go to sleep, Mom. I'm afraid I won't wake up in the morning."
Like that didn't break my achy heart.
He made me a mother's day card this year that referenced health issues 6 times in 19 sentences. He said things like
"You love me...you get me food. You give me medicine and make sure I take my meds...When I am sick you get me Motrin or Tylenol. When my forehead is warm you take my temperature. When I have trouble breathing you take me to the hospital...When C. Peevie or M. Peevie are being mean, you yell at them and help me get away from them. (Yaaay!!!)"Maybe when you've been through what he's been through, you pay more attention to feelings of safety, and you don't take it for granted that someone will take your temperature when your forehead is warm. His medical chart is about 19 inches thick with the details of two open-heart surgeries, one closed-heart surgery, two cardiac ablation procedures, half a dozen additional cardiac catheterizations, and multiple hospitalizations for pneumonia, RSV, influenza A, and once for an infected gland.
(I posted the story of A. Peevie's rough start here, in case you missed it the first time around.)
Anyway, we saw Dr. O, an electro-physiologist who specifically handles the rhythm issues of A. Peevie's heart. We got a good report, and A. Peevie had a fun tickle-fest with the playful million-dollar specialist. I was glad to walk away with no changes other than an additional prescription.
I want this boy to feel safe all the time. I think a child should feel safe, and one of the most important jobs of a parent is to help her child be and feel safe. I'm happy that he feels safe at the hospital; but I'm sad that he's had the kind of life experience that has put him in a place where the hospital is the place where he feels safe enough to actually notice and comment on feeling safe.
The boy also makes me think hard about health care in the United States. Without changes in our system, he will be out of luck when it comes to health care. He has so many pre-existing conditions, long-term medications, and high-risk medical concerns that the only way he'll get health care coverage is if he marries a cardiologist or ends up working for a large company that's required to provide health insurance to all of its employees.
It's not right that someone like him, through no fault of his own, will be at high risk for bankruptcy-by-healthcare-bills if somebody doesn't do something.
I saw a bumper sticker today on a big, gas-sucking SUV that read, "Defeat ObamaCare." What I want to know is, what do they have to say to A. Peevie about his healthcare options once he is no longer a dependent of Mr. Peevie and his excellent healthcare benefits?