Today was quite the emotional journey, I’m not sure where to begin. It feels like it should be about 5pm, but it is hardly noon.
This morning I woke up very early for a Skype job interview. When the interview was over, I got ready for work, and walked down to my office. I answered a few emails then followed Edwin (my translator) to the ward to update some patient profiles. I was taking profile photos of a little boy when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I quickly turned around and about jumped for joy. Rihana’s mom was standing behind me, her arms extended as she stretched little Rihana in my direction! They were back, and I don’t think anything could have made me smile bigger in that moment. I quickly wrapped my arms around her little body and laid my head on hers as tears rolled down my face. It is not very often that I get to see a child more than once while I am here. Typically they are here for pre-op, surgery, ICU, and then they head home after a few days. It can be difficult to build a relationship with a child, give them all my love for a few days, and then have to say goodbye, knowing I probably won’t see them again. I cant explain the excitement I had when I turned around to see her little face looking at me, arms reaching for me. I melted. After talking to her mother, I found out that Rihana was back to get her stitches removed after her craniotomy.
I walked around the ward with little Rihana in my arms, taking photos of babies pre-op for CURE’s website. We must have walked around together for about 45 minutes. I had just finished the last patient’s photos when the nurse announced it was Rihana’s turn. Mom was sitting on her bed, and when they called Rihana in, her mom motioned at me to stand in for her as Rihana’s stitches were removed. My heart sank. I do not become queasy easily. I have been watching brain surgery, and other operations for the past three weeks. However, something about this made my tummy turn. I prayed as we walked into the room. You know, I believe it was love. I didnt want to see someone I loved so deeply experience pain. I had been able to form a bond with her sweet personality, and the thought of watching Rihana in pain, even though it was just temporary, ached me. I always joke with my mom about how she closes her eyes and wiggles around when I mention any type of pain I’m in. However, in this moment I understood, and Rihana is not even my own daughter. As I peeled her little body away from mine, my heart melted as her fingers grasped my hands so tightly. I laid her on the table, and the nurse began removing the stitches as I held her hands, and tried to keep her body still. I tried everything, I rubbed her back, squeezed her hands, sang hymns to her, kissed her, all of it, and nothing seemed to help. I wanted to desperately distract her from the pain, but it was just too powerful. I can’t blame her, having a blade scratching at my head, even for the innocent act of removing stitches, cannot be a pleasant feeling. My stomach began turning as she locked eyes with me, and let out the loudest screams, tears streaming down her face. Oh, it hurt me.
I stood there, trying to comfort her for 25 minutes, when it happened. All of a sudden, within seconds, I began sweating, started swaying, and became incredibly dizzy. I have never passed out, never fainted, never felt that dizzy in my life. It was like I was so weak for this little girl, and feeling the pain with her. My body truly had a visceral reaction while seeing her in such pain. I immediately sat down and laid my head back. Her little voice screaming in the fuzzy background, and her little fingers still grasping so tightly to mine. Unfortunately I had to step out for a while. The mother came in and I walked back to my office. After a few minutes, some water, and some crackers, I was determined to go back. Anette, our receptionist, advised me to sit for longer, but I just couldn’t do it.
I rushed back to that small room and saw the same scene I had left just minutes before. Still just as heartbreaking, still just as painful for me. I made my way back to my spot, and Rihana reached her hands out to grab mine once again. I bent down to place my face where she could see me, and began praying that Jesus would help me be so strong for this little one. In a moment where I felt as though I wasn’t going to make it, He stepped in and gave me strength that could have come from no one but my Father. There is no fear in love, and in that moment, Jesus took my fear away so that I could love her as best as I wanted to. Rihana took a deep, deep breath, and all of a sudden her crying became less and less piercing, although still consistent. Tears. Tears. More tears. Not only was He allowing me to be strong, He gave her a little bit more strength to make it through the rest of her procedure. When they finally finished removing her stitches, they applied alcohol to her head where the stitches were removed. I stood up, bracing myself for the crying I knew would ensue. Screaming. It was so loud. Bless her heart, it hurt me more than I can explain. They gave me the go-ahead to pick her up, and I quickly pulled her close to me, bouncing her up and down, patting her back, and holding her aching little head against my body. I took her out of that small room and didn’t see her mother around. I sat down on her bed, swaying her back and forth, still holding her so tight. At one point, she raised her head and made eye contact with me, once again took a very deep breath, and as she breathed out, she laid her head on my chest, and fell asleep.
I am not a mother. I pray one day I will be. However, in that hour that I was able to stand in for Rihana’s mother, enduring pain alongside a little girl that I have developed such a deep love for, my heart felt so broken for her. Although the pain she was feeling was the last leg of her journey here, and the removal of her stitches meant that she was finally healed, it hurt to watch her endure pain. I thought to myself, if this is a fraction of what it feels like to be a mother, I cannot wait to have that title. I felt so deeply for this sweet girl that I almost passed out for the first time in my life as I watched her scream in pain. I wanted to take her spot. The connection was something so beautiful, and I will never forget the way she clung so tightly to me when it was all over. I was reminded of Galatians 6:2 that tells us to bear one another’s burdens. There was such beauty that came on the other side, after her stitches were removed. After walking through the pain with Rihana, I was able to sit and hold her for so long, loving on her as I felt her heartbeat slowly stop racing.
The goodbye was not easy, and my heart already misses her and her mother. But today I am thanking my sweet Father for one more moment with her before she left, and a healed little body that will now grow up healthy.