We are now out of the PICU, and settled in Pablo's room in the 4 West wing of CHLA. This is the pediatric cancer ward. We started our CHLA journey in 4 West back in May. We love it here. Feels like home. Last time we were here, Pablo's long curly hair was still in effect. Now, he looks like the other young, beautiful, bald kiddies all over this floor. And like all the kids we saw back then–who appeared to be further along in their treatment–Pablo has a couple of tall chrome poles with four medicine drips and monitors attached to it. So, when we walk the hallways later this week, Pablo'll look like one of those veteran cancer kids. And, perhaps, a family who have just arrived here will look at us and soak up a glimpse of what their near future looks like.
Earlier, I was in the hallway outside the room. I overheard two parents talking to a doctor down the hall. I stopped and observed them. The dad was speaking about risk/reward ratios, full of energy and, from my perspective, nervousness. The mom stood sternly, listening to her husband deliver a big message that, I assumed, they'd rehearsed before this hallway conference. I can only assume all of this from the many similar meetings Jo Ann and I have had with our team. The doctor in this scene stood before the parents, listening intently. His body language suggested passivity and an openness to everything the dad was saying. The parents were, like us the week of May 19, new to all of this. They weren't yet physically destroyed, beyond tired and emotionally pulverized. At least it didn't seem like it.
I have never asked any of our docs about their training in the art of listening. But they are all great listeners. They are great absorbers of fear, tension, confusion, and that certain stripe of terror that envelops the parents of a child with cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Coming from the mean streets of the entertainment business, renowned for its–ahem–selflessness and open ears, I find the demeanor of the doctors and staff here at CHLA a real inspiration.
By the way, Pablo just got a fat vial of Valium. So he's still sleeping. And probably will be sleeping for a long long time.