Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Princess Sheets and Compassion

I saw a video on YouTube today that inspired this post.

There was this little girl, recently, who was crying in her hospital bed. A nurse, hearing the sobs, entered the room to comfort her. This occurred on a cancer ward, and more often than not, nurses are called on to reassure, even when prognoses are dim.

Through small, clear tears, the little girl looked up, a plastic crown upon her head, her light brunette hair resembling a bird's nest.

"I want to be a princess," cries Sarah to the nurse.

"You are, sweetie, you are," answers the nurse, knowing that the little girl has terminal cancer.

"No," Sarah countered, "I am not. Look at my sheets. Just look at them. Plain white; these sheets are not princess sheets."

The nurse and Sarah talked for a while, and by the time the conversation was over, Sarah had forgotten about the white sheets.

But the nurse could not get Sarah's voice out of her mind. She wanted princess sheets, and the nurse knew Sarah's family could not afford them. They were on Medicaid, and this girl's days were numbered (a comfort gift by some would have been a luxury in a family who could not afford luxuries at this time). Her mother worked, and had to take care of three other children.

On the way home from work that night, the nurse stopped by a department store and bought some princess sheets. After Sarah was wheeled out of her room for a while the following day, the nurse replaced the sheets with the newly acquired princess sheets.

When Sarah came back, she beamed when she saw the princess sheets.

"I am a princess," she kept repeating. "I am a princess." Her face lacked a warm glow, but there was joy in her eyes. The sheets allowed herself to be a princess.

The nurse never told the little girl, nor her mother about the sheets. They were a gift from her heart, to ease the girls last few weeks. Ten days later, the girl died in the same bed, among her princess sheets.

When you see ads to drum up support for donations, most of the children look healthy, perhaps sans hair, and smiling. They typically don't show children after chemotherapy, when they are weak and uncomfortable, teetering between life and death in hopes of killing the cancer that inhabits the body.

You know, years ago, I would give to Jerry's Kids and other organizations, wanting to fund research for a cure. Now, I am a bit more pragmatic. I give money for comfort, not research. So I don't give to Jerry; I give to my local children's hospital (it is a hospital within a hospital so I also give to the nearest freestanding children's hospital). Lots of people get transferred there when they are really sick. And each time I give, I wonder if some of the money will purchase princess sheets or whatever else a child needs in order to make their ordeal more bearable.


Nikhil said...

I admit I traipsed into your blog only for the nice competition thingie you are hosting, but this post was unnaturally nice and compassionate, and if I had functional tear ducts I would bawl like a baby.

Nice work girl.

kathi said...

As Shawn always tells me on my blog; this is a tear jerker.
I love your heart.

Kat said...

Thanks for writing about this Leesa, you're so right. Since I'm not a millionaire my donations don't make much of a splash toward a cure, but they could purchase some comfort for a kid.

Ian Lidster said...

A moving tale, and I commend you for supporting local kid-oriented charities. A suffering child is almost more than I can bear, because it all seems so unfair.


~Deb said...

Okay, this totally made me cry!

Leesa said...

I always try to donate to food or abuse shelters. I've been donating to the Montana Food Bank for years.
You've inspired me to look into childrens hospitals :)

LarryLilly said...

A very touching story Leesa.

I spent 38 hours in the pediatric intensive care hospital at Presbyterian in OKC when my daughter committed suicide. While she was nearly 16 when she hung herself, they medivaced her there since that hospital would be the place where she had the best chance of survival.

I was at times, when the grief was too great to dwell on it, able to see how the nurses do what they do, and wondered who looks after their well being, how do they cope. After my daughters death, I sent the nurses on both shifts some small gifts and a thank you note that expressed how much I cared about what they did. Yeah, its a job they choose, but still, its a gut wrenching one when most that come in dont leave by the front door.

Miss 1999 said...

I'm still crying, but I must say, that absolutely warmed my heart, that someone reached out, and made a child's last few days on earth, a little brighter by buying some princess sheets.

You're so right to give money to local charities to help out with comfort. I honestly believe there's a cure for cancer as we speak, but, unforunately, we'll never see it. It's better to do what you can to help those who have no hope, to at least make what time they have brighter.

Thanks for sharing this with us!

Pittchick said...

Nurses are awesome. I can't imagine having such a stressful job.

I thought about crying, but didn't. Great post.

Leesa said...

nikhil: unnaturally nice? I sound like a bitch, don't I?

kathi: you do have some tear-jerkers, sweetie.

kat: thanks, sweetie.

ian: I think we are programmed to think that way. A good thing.

~deb: sorry, sweets!

leesa: Do you know about Shodair Children's Hospital? I think alot of MT children probably get sent to Seattle Children's.

larry: I am so sorry, sweetie.

miss 1999: cancer is a complex set of different illnesses. If there are cures, I think there will be different cures for different cancers.

pittchick: thanks for the comment. I, at first, thought you might defend research (which I do as well).