When we were in the PCICU for the 4 days following Jaxson’s open heart surgery, there was a little girl named Bethany in the bed beside him. Bethany was a very very sick little girl with complex cardiac issues. At the age of a year and a half she had already been through a handful of open heart surgeries with many more on the horizon.
The sad reality that we quickly learned from being in the PCICU is many of the babies are all alone. There were babies in the unit who’s parents hadn’t been to see them in weeks. But not Bethany’s. Despite being intubated and sedated, her mom and dad were there every waking moment. When they were unable to be by her side her grandma or grandpa would be there to take over.
Bethany’s family were Hutterites. They kept to themselves, they were quiet and reserved, but it was very obvious they had a lot of love for their daughter. Every once in a while her mom would make eye contact with us, give a small smile and turn away. Her grandma never looked our way, nor did her father. They kept themselves occupied with reading, chatting, and the grandma would crochet endlessly.
Our third day in the PCICU Bethany took a turn for the worse and had to be rushed for yet another open heart surgery for an emergent valve replacement. First thing that morning the O.R. staff whisked her away as her parents and grandma left in tears. Hours and hours went by and her ‘spot’ was still empty. What was supposed to be a ‘quick’ procedure had drug on for over 5 hours. Of course we overheard all the chatter between the nurses and doctors about how the surgery was going, the complications and her estimated time to arrive back in the unit.
I had stepped out to use my phone and as I walked by the waiting room I passed Bethany’s parents sitting, anxiously awaiting for some form of news. No doubt they were panicking as the estimated time of surgery had already been surpassed by hours. I kept walking, knowing it was not my place…. but I couldn’t just leave it. We were in those same shoes two days prior. Sitting and waiting in fear that the worst is happening with your baby. I knew Bethany’s status and I had to tell them. I turned around, walked back, knelt down in front of her mom and told her everything I knew. I told her that Bethany was ok and they had already finished the surgery. I told her that in about half an hour they were bringing her back. Her mom stood up, gave me the biggest hug and sobbed “thank you, thank you, thank you!”.
The days went on as we each sat by our child’s hospital beds. We continued to make eye contact and smile. No words were spoken. Bethany was very unstable and in critical condition. I’m sure it was hard for them to watch Jaxson being extubated, having attachments removed and seeing us able to hold him in our arms.
On our fourth day in the PCICU Jaxson was ready to be sent to the step-down unit, and his bed was being filled with an emergent case who was on their way to the hospital with the PCICU flight team. We had just enough time to pack up our belongs when they came to transfer Jax. As we were walking out, Bethany’s grandma stopped us, she handed me 4 waschlappens (german for washcloth, pronounced vushluppin) and said “something soft and comforting for when you bathe Jaxson”. Her crocheting was for Jaxson……
This was a beautiful reminder that despite our very different walks of life, convictions, or beliefs (I can guarantee they weren’t supporters of our family unit :P) we each had, we were very much the same. Our babies were sick and nothing else mattered.
The following 5 weeks that we spent at the Stollery we would see Bethany’s parents a couple times every day. Each time we ran into each other we would always stop and ask about each others kids, and eventually our conversations evolved to not being all about our babies. Over those 5 weeks Bethany thrived, she became stronger and healthier. Although not out of the woods she was doing amazing, and they started to have a light at the end of their long dark tunnel.
Not a bath time goes by that I don’t think about Bethany and her family. Those silly little waschlappens mean a great deal to me. Needless to say after a year of use they are becoming ratty and musty. So today I’m sitting here crocheting the exact same waschlappens, with the exact same wool. I may be replacing the originals but I will never be able to retire these very special cloths.
And just a warning to my friends having babies from here on out. You will be receiving these waschlappens as a gift because they really are the greatest thing since sliced bread ❤