Twenty-three months after our first visit for prenatal ultrasound to diagnose various problems with each of our twins, we returned to Children’s Hospital today for yet another follow-up look at Ella’s kidneys and bladder as we follow a diagnosis of hydronephrosis. We actually arrived uncharacteristically early, easily found a spot in the underground parking garage, and stepped into the elevator with a friendly woman carrying a large bag of bagels.
“It’s so nice that she’s healthy,” she enthused as Ella bounded onto the elevator. “There are so many really sick kids here.”
And therein lies the rub. Yes, she’s doing really well. At the same time, we wouldn’t be here if our Girlie was free of serious concern, and we certainly know all about ‘really sick kids,’ having been regular visitors with our son before his eventual death up on the third floor. So we walk through these familiar halls which have been made holy by our time here, an effect made even more poignant with the completion of a new wing of the hospital. Huge, comfortable, sunny, private rooms now welcome families, and I stave off the sense of envy that rises up as I walk through smelling all of the newness.
But the old spaces are still there, of course. The old cardiac ICU, patient rooms, and well-worn waiting areas now sit quiet and empty. Without any of the social shame that goes with lingering over someone else’s room, I can now stop and stare through the glass to feel the weight of these old places. I can look into the room where my Will died, trying to understand why it seems to get smaller every time I see it. I can even visit the restrooms, remembering both the utterly mundane aspects of everyday life as well as the times when the tiny bit of space and privacy meant a sudden recognition of some very bad news. I can walk the halls and revisit all of the good and bad news, the joys and the tears, the reliefs and the heartbreaks. The space doesn’t have any of the obvious importance it once did– it’s just blank now. But at the same time, it’s not empty, not really– it is filled to overflowing with the experiences of myself and myriad others. It has more weight now that it is stripped of clear purpose.
At the end of the day, we got some good news about Ella’s hydronephrosis– it appears to have resolved. So we won’t need to visit the old radiology ward, the urology waiting room, the cafeteria, or the familiar hallways anymore. But I’m kind of sad, actually; I’ll miss this place. This place is a part of us now, and we’re a part of it.