In the Heart Work Business
Yesterday, I took my son, Brooks, for an imaging study of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. He was born with duodenal atresia (which is essentially a blockage in the intestine) and needed surgery at birth to repair it so that he could eat and digest his food like you and me. He is now 6 years old and apart from the surgery and the few weeks it took him to recover as a newborn, we haven’t had to deal with anything related to this condition since… until now. Over the last few months, Brooks has begun complaining about “barfing a little in his mouth and swallowing it”. We contacted his pediatrician who wanted us to try removing lactose from his diet to see if it would help. Our instincts told us that this wasn’t the right course of action, so we sought out another opinion from a doctor who has been doing research on babies born with duodenal atresia and following them to see if and how it impacts them over the course of their lives. She sent Brooks for an X-ray which revealed that he may or may not have a partial blockage. It was hard to tell from the images, so from there, she requested the contrast imaging study. This entailed Brooks fasting for 8 hours before the appointment and then him drinking a special vanilla flavoured thick-ish white liquid while the doctor watched and took pictures of it making its way through his body.
Brooks was an all-star. He was bubbly, talkative, chugged back the liquid leaving behind the cutest white moustache above his lip, and loved watching the screen as he saw the liquid bounce around inside his body. It was a hugely positive experience that could have been a complete nightmare.
Sure, I prepared him as best as I could before the appointment, talking calmly about what I thought might happen. I played it up saying that he’d not only get to miss a day of school, but that I would, too, and that we’d make a special day out of it. But I’m not the one who made this experience so positive. I bet you can guess who did…
The nurses. The technicians. The doctor… they are in the heart work business.
As soon as Brooks was called in for his appointment, a sweet woman talked and engaged with Brooks while we walked down the hall and into the room. She told him about the white liquid that was kind of like a milkshake but not cold. She asked him if he was hungry and what he was going to eat once he was done his appointment. “Oh, a bagel with Nutella? Have you ever tried peanut butter AND Nutella?” This type of conversation continued on with the other people involved in his procedure. Despite the fact that they didn’t know my son, they took these precious minutes building a relationship with him before they got to the “here’s what we need you to do for the doctor” part. You could tell that he was over the moon happy with all of the attention he was getting and was comfortable with the team caring for him. They showed him the equipment and explained to him what he was seeing on the screen. They giggled with him and told him how well he was doing.
Be still, my heart.
Right now, we are still in the unknown as to the results of this test, and if Brooks will be needing another surgery or not, but it really doesn’t matter right now, because regardless of the outcome, I know Brooks will be okay… all because of the people in the heart work business.
As I was driving home with Brooks, and thinking about all of these wonderful women who took such great care of my little boy, and how grateful I was for them going above and beyond and making this experience positive for him, I realized something. I too, have created this same feeling for parents… I too, am in the heart work business. Perhaps the nurses, technicians and doctor yesterday didn’t go above and beyond, but rather did what they always do, because it is in their nature. Maybe they understand that these interactions make all the difference. Maybe it brings them as much joy as it brings others.
Earlier this week, a student came to school feeling sad. When I checked in with her and asked how she was doing, she said with tears pooling in her eyes, “not good, I didn’t hug mama this morning”. I got down on my knee and whispered back, “It is hard to miss mommy. What if we made mommy a little video after the morning announcements, would that help?” Instantly, her eyes lite up and her mood changed. Did I do this to go above and beyond? Of course not, it’s second nature because I am in the heart work business. I knew that until this student felt better, there wasn’t much she’d be able to take in from the day. I knew that she needed love and a bit of time. “Hi mama. I forgot to give you a hug-y. I just wanted to say I love you.” — a 9 second video. Mom responded saying that they had all had a rough morning and that the video made her cry. She wrote, “Thank you so much! I can see why so many talk so highly of you. This truly made my day.” I read part of her response to my student, who was already back to herself by then. It took 30 seconds out of my day, but changed my student’s and her mom’s whole day.
I bet you don’t think about it twice when you do the heart work. Maybe you don’t even notice when you do it. It probably has become an instinct for you. You do what is needed to show care and love. You build relationships, both with your students and their families. You do the heart work. And I just want to remind you that it is appreciated and is making all of the difference.
Thank you for being in the heart work business.