What does the melody of a lullaby bring to your mind? Rocking your first child to sleep? A nursery filled with stuffed animals and painted clouds on the walls? The softness of a baby’s cheek? Or, perhaps such a melody awakens long-dormant memories of a child you loved and lost, or simply stirs desires to one day have a child of your own. A lullaby seems the most innocent of musical compositions, but it can mean so many things to each and every one of us.
The tinkling of a music box, playing Brahms Lullaby, emanates from the public-address system overhead and filters through hospital corridors and waiting rooms heralding the joyful arrival of yet another newborn. But I wasn’t at the hospital; rather, I sat miles away in my work cubicle, headset on transcribing a diagnosis of B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia in a two-year old boy. As I did so often, I paused with the bittersweet intrusion of the lullaby, which served as a background to this particular dictation. As a medical transcriptionist, I should’ve been used to the irony; cases like this are a constant reminder that too often children are “called home” early. What would be this 2-year-old’s fate? Would he be like the child I’ve never forgotten who, when I was a teen-age hospital volunteer, spent the last few weeks of her life alone and unvisited in a dark hospital room? Or, would he be one of the luckier beaming children I passed when, years later, I worked at our Kaiser medical center? I would marvel at how these children bereft of hair, dark circles beneath their eyes but smiles of hope, sat as their chemo infusions fought the internal struggle that would decide whether they would see another summer or be delegated as a portrait to the wall of their family’s living room. I would marvel, too, at the dedication of the nurses and doctors who chose to work in a specialty with such extreme highs and lows, the adrenaline rush of success, the heartache of loss and failure. One of those medical warriors, Dr. Pat Hardy, pediatric oncologist, was a dynamo of determination in the fight for remission but a gentle giant when it came to those kids.
As always, my wandering thoughts return to the task at hand — the completion of this precious 2-year-old’s case, and I pray that his path will cross that of a super pediatric oncology team and receive the healing touch of a merciful God.