Over the years there has been significant life altering events that have shaped the life we have. There are certain parts to the struggles in Hayden’s past that will never be lost in our memories. Things that have impacted us so much that it releases a wave of emotion and memories that we wish we could forget. Every now and then we are given reminders of these times that bring us back to those moments that shook us to our core.
One of most impactful times in my journey, as her dad, through Hayden’s struggles was her PICU stay in that lasted months just about 3 years ago. The PICU is on the third floor of our local children’s hospital. It took me approximately 3-4 minutes from the parkade where I would park every early morning to the entrance to the PICU. There is a large fish tank with a waiting area and a public bathroom directly across the unit. It was in this place, the waiting area, that I desperately tried to regroup and regain a little bit of my sanity after a few hours of watching Hayden go through hell. It was where I would meet other families desperate for a miracle for their child. The seating area where I could pull out my laptop and TRY (although sometimes unsuccessfully) and stay on top of my work responsibilities and keep some income coming in. It was in a time when fear and exhaustion ran our life. When I truly couldn’t say that my daughter would be ok, or if she would even make it out of the unit.
Through all the pain and stress in those times, I remember hearing a piano. A piano I looked forward to hearing every time I sat in the waiting area. The beautiful sounds that it played came from the 4th floor atrium and was available for anyone to play. Everyone that played the piano during those two months helped me out of some dark places and let me feel like things would be ok. It was something that I looked forward to every day.
As I prepared myself to walk back into the unit I would use the phone located in the hallway to call the unit to let the charge nurse in the PICU know that I was coming back in. “Hayden’s dad coming back into the unit” I would say. Once I received the ok, I would press the button and fully coat my hands in antibacterial hand wash. The doors would finally open and I could walk back in.
About 7 months after her discharge, I attended a presentation on family centered care near the entrance to the PICU. The conference room that the presentation was in was across the hall from the entrance to the PICU. Waiting for the doors to the conference room to be unlocked, I couldn’t help but stare at the entrance to the PICU. The double doors, the phone, the fish tank out front. In the moment, the doors opened and a doctor walked out. A rush of emotion bombarded me and tears immediately filled my eyes. The memory was so powerful it pulled tears out of me in front of the group I was there with. It brought me back to the days that I needed to walk through and witness my daughter in one of the more traumatic times in her life.
Over time I have recognized I have held onto other things. Like the how thought provoking the sound of a piano can be now, and how it has an indescribable ability to transform my thoughts and feelings in the moment. As I carry on with my life, when I hear a piano play I become reminded of the moments in that waiting room just hoping and praying for a better day. Sometimes it is more pronounced than others. Tonight, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy with my wife. We got through ¾ of the episode and then it started. As the background music slowly increased in volume, something started triggering my memories. The music heightened, and I recognized the slow and melodic sound of the piano. I felt my eyes well up and the more it played, the more the thought of that waiting room crept into my mind, and the tears dropped even more.
There will be many triggers in the memories where we feel things are falling apart. And truthfully, having a child that has been through so much, who has so many things working against them, the back of your mind always contains a thought of will she need to ever be in the PICU. Will I ever be sitting in that waiting room again listening to the piano and praying for a miracle.
It’s not easy. Reliving these thoughts. But somehow after listening to instrumental piano music and having a good cry, helps me see the beauty in this life. I feel renewed in purpose and become even more focused on embracing the challenges set out in front of me. I’m reminded of just how precious life is and why it is so important for my role as a father. It keeps me focused on the things that matter and the life I want to have for myself and my family.
Through these extraordinary challenges we will experience things that can bring us back in an instant. Reminders of our struggles and how precious and fragile life is. I will never forget that feeling of walking through those doors into the PICU or of how beautiful a piano can sound.
I’m heartbroken and grateful for these reminders. They have truly changed who I am, but I pray that there are no new events that create memories like these.