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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)

TITLE: PICU Lullabies
By Sheri Gordon


I hear a ding and the metal doors in front of me slide open. Stepping past the sign that states Due to the Threat of the H1N1 Virus, No Visitors Under the Age of 18 Allowed in Patients' Rooms, I smile at the receptionist as I pass my cardkey over the blinking box.

The electronic swinging doors open slowly--a large "P" and "I" on the left door, matched by a "C" and "U" on the right door. The enormity of the reality that exists beyond these doors threatens to overwhelm me as I step through. This is the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Many of the patients in this unit have spent more of their days in the hospital than at home. Some of them have never even been home. Our unified goal and prayer is that every child we care for will get well enough to leave this unit for good. The reality is, some will not.

I do not have adequate schooling, skills or training to make these children better. I cannot administer medications...I cannot determine a diagnosis. My only qualifications for being on this unit are my compassion and willingness to serve; and those are gifts from God. I am not part of the staff...I am a volunteer.

My job is to make life for these children and their parents a bit more bearable. When I walk through those PICU doors, I have to try to forget that I am dealing with life and death situations. To do my job most effectively, I must treat these patients as "ordinary"; I must converse with the parents without letting my emotions, or theirs, overwhelm me. I am supposed to be the calm in their storm.

Today I have been asked to "entertain" a two-year old patient who is "very upset." I do not have to ask which room...I can hear his wails from down the hall. I learn that he has been crying basically non-stop since yesterday. Understandably, his mother is physically and emotionally wiped out. Tackling a toddler who will not even calm down for his mother will be challenging. I silently ask God for strength and wisdom.

Armed with books and DVDs, I follow the screams. I do not know Josiah's diagnosis--it isn't important--but I see immediately that he has a number of tubes attached to him at various places. He is, however, able to "roam" around his steel crib with the plastic tent top--and roaming he is. I smile at his mother who is curled up in a chair. Her eyes are glazed over--I've seen that look from many exhausted parents.

I start with the cookie book, and though Josiah stops screaming for a moment, he's back at it before I get to page three. Undaunted, I switch to the bug book. This one interests him a bit more and the hysterical sobbing subsides. Before I get to beetles, Josiah's mom is snoring lightly.

When Josiah's interest in stick bugs begins to wane, I quickly start an interactive DVD. Josiah and I count camels, clap to make the water rush faster, and blow rainclouds over the desert, all while his mother sleeps soundly in the chair in the corner.

One of the machines attached to Josiah begins to beep and the nurse is immediately in the room. She asks Josiah to lie down so she can change a tube, and Josiah willingly complies. Unfortunately, he sees his mother and cries out.


She stirs slightly, but stays asleep.

"Mama's sleeping. We need to be quiet."

Josiah holds out his little index finger and puts it over his lips. "Shhh. Mama sleeping?"

"Yes, sweetie, Mama is sleeping. And Josiah needs to go to sleep, too."

Surprisingly, he stays lying down and I start singing quietly about Jesus loving him, butterfly wings, itsy-bitsy spiders, and crashing cradles--not my favorite lullaby, but it's a sleepy-song staple, so I keep it in my repertoire.

Within moments Josiah falls asleep, and my shift is over.

I do not know if I will see Josiah again. Maybe he will be here when I come next week, maybe not. Maybe he will be home with his family, or maybe he will be home with the Lord.

I cannot think about that as I leave the hospital. I thank God for using me in these children's lives, and I ask Him to give me strength to do this again next week--one step at a time.

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This article has been read 664 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 02/25/10
Volunteers are the heartbeat of most hospitals as so many are understaffed. If this is a true story, I thank God for blessing you with such a beautiful gift of sharing yourself with strangers.
Barbara Lynn Culler02/25/10
What a precious story! It would break my heart to volunteer with sick children.
Virgil Youngblood 02/26/10
Awesome. The clarity of your writing brings this story to life. A great example of ministering in Jesus' name.
Donna Wolther02/27/10
If this is not a true story, then you are a great writer of fiction. If it is true, you are not only an excellent writer, but an inspiration and a lovely person. God bless you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/01/10
Volunteering at a children's hospital must be exhausting, but I also would think it is exhilarating at the same time. Your words were written masterfully and I enjoyed every one.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/02/10
This story showed such a beautiful, willing spirit of the volunteer. I could see so clearly the sleeping mother and the sweet little boy. This story truly engaged me.
Chely Roach03/03/10
What a testimony to bravery; both that of the patients and their families, but also to the staff and volunteers that care for them in such uncertain times. This really touched my heart...
Ruth Stromquist03/04/10
Really well done! Excellent description and action, flowing smoothly, plus a deeply moving commentary on one of life's toughest issues.
Beth LaBuff 03/04/10
Wonderful story! Wow! Congrats, Sheri, on receiving an Editor's Choice with this! (is this a true story?) I love what your MC does!