Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Poster Child, Part Deux

 So...our kid is a Children's Hospital Oakland (CHO) poster child again.  Literally. On posters.


Thanks to Laura's willingness to tell some important people at CHO some hard truths about our experiences at their institution, Simon might help save some lives.

CHO, like many hospitals, is struggling to get people to wash their hands.  It's tricky to figure out exactly how to get busy, stressed out, tired people to remember to so something so boring so many times a day.  And, in a hospital, unwashed hands can equal death, disability, suffering, pain, and trauma.  We know firsthand (no pun intended).  

When the team working on this issue realized they needed to make it personal for the staff, Laura decided to offer up our story as a possible tool.  Simon got septic three times in the four months he was in the hospital. Each one was almost certainly due to a lack of handwashing by SOMEONE in the hospital. Maybe it was us.  Maybe it was the staff.  Who knows.  But someone had dirty hands and it nearly killed him.  Three times. 

Laura was the genius that came up with "Simon says 'wash your hands'"  Brilliant, right?!? I  
The hospital had piloted a few cartoon mock ups of signs, etc but we had not seen the final materials until tonight.  Something about seeing those photos of him and having our story right there for everyone to see made me feel...resilient.  For the first time in a LONG time, I felt successful in the face of trauma. 

I've been thinking a lot about resilience lately.  I've been deep in the trenches doing some heavy emotional work on trauma, both from Simon's illness and also earlier stuff.  I've been feeling just...awful.  Fear, shame and humiliation about feeling afraid, shame and humiliation about feeling ashamed and humiliated because it feels like weakness and admitting defeat to feel afraid and then stupid to feel ashamed of feeling afraid- you get the picture.  An emotional fun house. 

When Laura texted me pictures of the posters that are going up around Children's Hospital Oakland, I felt proud.  Really proud. I couldn't quite tell what I felt proud about until the word "resilience" popped into my head and I had a mini-epiphany.  For so long I've thought that resilience means coming out of a battle unscathed, unscarred, untouched. Coming through the clouds and dusting your shoulders off having hardly broken a sweat, grinning victoriously.  For years, this idea of resilience equaling Teflon is where I've gotten tripped up.  
All the hard, scary awful things that have happened to me have left a mark. They've changed and shaped and bruised and even gouged me.  But, I am beginning to realize, being marked doesn't mean that I failed or lost or am weak or fragile or damaged.

Our story on those posters is a tangible marker of resilience.  We decided to use the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a tool.  Tonight I really got that resilience is NOT not feeling.  It's taking those feelings and that information and those experiences and USING them.  

I will probably always have a heightened fear response when Simon gets a fever.  I will never forget what he looked like with a fever of 107. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. That's okay. Resilience doesn't mean that I won't get scared. I will probably have feelings every time I see that poster. It was awful.  But I'm totally willing to see that poster ever time I go into those buildings because resilience means I get to mix some pride in with that fear and put it all to good use.