One of the best memories I have of when I was in a hospital in California with my son was being able to go outside.
We had been in the hospital for almost a week to address his microtia and to begin the reconstruction process on his right ear. I hadn’t left his side but to run down to the cafeteria to grab some cereal or a bar. The artificial lights and constant beeping and lack of sleep were making me irritable and cranky. I didn’t realize how much the stuffy and cramped environment was getting to me–all I knew was that I was miserable.
A kind and gentle family advocate could see how much I needed a break and encouraged me to “get outside” for a little while and have some time to myself. She assured me she would stay with Ethan. It was hard to leave him, but I reluctantly grabbed my bag and walked out of the room.
I squinted as I stepped outside for the first time in what felt like weeks but was really only about four days. I felt the warm sunshine hit my face. The fresh air filled my lungs and I immediately felt some of the tension and stress in my body from the previous week release. I walked. I took some deliberate breaths. I let the sun bath my face and with each step I allowed all the frustration and stress from the week a way out of my body.
I found a coffee shop. I sat outside and watched the people pass by. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh air.
I returned an hour later feeling new. I was able to be the mom I needed to be to help Ethan heal. I have never forgotten the way it felt to be able to step outside after being cooped up in a hospital for a week–how important it was for me, his primary caregiver outside of the RN’s and CNA’s, to be able to have some time to myself and the intuitive role nature played in my own healing, so that I could return my attention fully back to Ethan.
It is this experience that drives my passion for our Music and Stories in the the Renown Children’s Healing Garden. Every week we work with our volunteers, Child Life Specialists, and our Healing Arts Performer, Melissa Taylor from Reno Little Theater, to bring pediatric patients who are able down to the garden for fresh air and a little bit of normalcy. To get them away from their beds, from the beeping, from the machines, and get them in a familiar environment where they can relax and play and forget they are sick–even for a moment.
It’s also a time for family to do the same. For parents and siblings, who are cooped up right along with the patient, to be refreshed and renewed. We encourage them, if they’d like, to get a Starbucks or take a walk, that their children will be safe and cared for while they get some much needed time to themselves. Most of the time they choose to stay, but they still leave feeling renewed because music and stories–and sunshine– are healing regardless of age.