On the journey to our destination Danny and I reflected on the numerous lessons we learned throughout the two month period of William's hospitalization. Here they are in no particular order:
-We cannot control the situations in which we find ourselves here in this world, only how we react.
-Slow down and appreciate each moment, not only because we don't know how quickly our circumstances can change, but also because each moment has beauty regardless of our emotions
-Appreciate professionalism. There was a huge difference between health care workers who demonstrated true professionalism and those who did not. Sincerity and professionalism are paramount in any profession, but when someone's life is on the line, there simply isn't room for shoddiness of work and lack of compassion. I for one have always tried to embody this as a nurse but find myself all the more aware of my actions now in light of our experience.
-God answers prayers most often through other people. Time and again when asked ourselves "How can we make this work?" or realized that Carter and Claire needed to be attended to but we needed to be at the hospital next to William and then a family member, friend, co-worker or a member of our church would text, call or "Facebook" us with an offer to help. Our family and friends were the tools through which divine intelligence provided help. We also benefited from the strength of other people's faith; sometimes people we didn't know until William became ill appeared as if out of the blue to offer helpful suggestions or shoulder on which to rest and cry.
-There is a LOT of good left in the world still. Throughout the ordeal we met the some of the most kind-hearted and wise people and although we've benefited from the charity of others throughout our lives, for the first time it seemed we found ourselves on the receiving end of the kind of charity and compassion that we never thought we'd need. The Ronald McDonald House organization, for example, was a God-send. Thanks to them we saved a great deal of money (although you don't technically have to pay, we agreed to pay a substantial amount of the operating costs in order to help others benefit from their services in the future. The amount, however, was a fraction of what it would have cost us to stay in a hotel. Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) was wonderful and their compassionate, professional staff was the biggest reason William survived this ordeal with as few chronic issues as possible. Also, I'd be remiss not to mention The Beauty Bus who gave Claire and me free makeovers on her birthday. Although that might sound trite, it really brightened an otherwise bleak period.
-Trials leave us with increased empathy and compassion. We find ourselves more understanding and sensitive to the trials of others than we were before this experience. We now realize more fully that everyone in this mortal world is in the midst of some kind of difficult trial but we simply don't know about them (and sometimes they don't either).
-Recently we heard someone say that when we look back at our lives, we will view those difficult moments more fondly than the "fun" or comfortable moments in our lives. We can already see that this is true. If all our summer plans had panned out the way we wanted them to, the summer would have come and gone and we'd be the same people. But as things unfolded our family grew stronger, our faith greater and we feel we are better people because of this experience. Of course we wouldn't have wished this on William, but we accept what happened and don't have anger and or fear regarding this situation.
-No matter how bad it is, it could be worse. We met so many families going through situations that we felt were even more difficult than ours. At the Ronald McDonald house we met a family who financed everything to come to LA from England for cancer treatment for their little girl because the doctor's in England refused to try more aggressive treatment options. A wonderful man named Alejandro was sleeping in the parent room at CHLA week after week and despite the fact that his daughter's brain tumor came back even after it was in remission, he had faith that God's will would be done and emanated faith and peace.
-Health insurance is a huge blessing. We haven't sat and tallied all the bills that CHLA and Children's Hospital Central California sent Kaiser, but two days in Madera alone caused our insurance to be billed $16,000. Furthermore, the helicopter transport from Fresno to L.A. totaled $15,000! We are so grateful to not be filing medical bankruptcy.
-Play with your kids! While William was sick, family and friends would relieve us from the hospital so we could to spend time with Carter and Claire. It was suddenly easy to be fully present and just play with them; they needed it and so did we. Now that we have been home a while it has become easier to justify doing unimportant things rather then focus on using every moment efficiently as parents, but we still remember how apparent it was then and that helps us refocus our priorities.
-Find joy in the journey. There were often times we would want everything to magically be returned to "normal" and for it all to be over, but as we gained clarity we began to see each moment as an opportunity to learn from our trials, meet wonderful people, learn about ourselves and find joy, no matter how bumpy the journey.