Life Lessons At Every Turn At Children's

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Marc Fisher
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Sunday, January 18, 2004; 5:00 PM

Lessons I learned in a month of living at Children's Hospital:

The simple act of touching a child can bring his heart rate down by 30 beats per minute in a matter of seconds. You can watch this happen on the monitor, and then let go, and the heart races again, and then you touch once more, and the body calms, and it all makes sense, but it's still a little miracle.

There are few places lonelier than the parents' waiting room outside the O.R. on Christmas Eve.

If you are tired enough, you can sleep anywhere, anytime, in any position.

There is little in life more powerful than trust. And trust is beautifully contagious.

Those 1 percent risks that attach to medical procedures are no boilerplate

-- they really do happen, and sometimes they happen again and again.

Much of medicine is educated guesswork, a collection of experiences that lead to practices that often work, but sometimes don't.

Anxiety is a surefire weight-loss system.

Somewhere in the world, there may be nurses more devoted and loving than the women and men of the 4-Green unit at Children's, but I doubt it. Day after day, night after night, we drew strength and encouragement from Megan, Christine, Marnell, Janet, Ann, Kisha, Tenzin, the other Janet, Tirso, Rohnie and the others who put in 14-hour shifts and then come back in on their off days to see their kids, bring them a stick of gum or sit down together to watch a few minutes of a movie.

Technology has made us expect to be able to see almost anything that happens inside the human body, but many of the most basic mechanisms inside us remain largely mysterious, even to the scientists who have studied them their entire careers.

Clowns really do make sad, ill children smile, and the Big Apple Circus's Clown Care Unit knows its stuff.

Sunrise over the Capitol dome is a magnificent vision, morning after morning, a blessing of orange, pink, white and blue that makes this a magical city in which to live.

A lot of us talk a good game about working hard, and all of us enjoy a good joke about doctors spending their time on the golf course, but for the docs who toil at hospitals, 24/7 is no boast -- it's a nonstop life of dedication.

When people tell you they are praying for you, they really do it, and whether or not you believe in what they're doing, it carries an awesome power, simply because they do it.

A child's laugh is the fastest cure for what ails you.

I should have found out the name of the orderly who helped out in the E.R.

one day and for weeks thereafter stopped me in the halls to ask after our son; I'd like to be able to thank him properly.

Surgery begets surgery, wounds heal faster than you'd imagine, hospitals are a cesspool of bugs, time loses meaning when your daily routines are suspended, and it is possible to watch the same movies 20 times in two weeks and still find them funny.

There is something far worse than airline food -- hospital food.

In the intensive care unit, where life seems ultimately fragile, we are all equal, regardless of class, race, language or geography.

Sleep is the most effective salve for the body, mind and soul.

The Internet can help you understand everything the docs talk about, and the Internet can frighten you into an early grave.

Wealth should be measured not by the property you own or the assets you collect, but by the dedication and love that your friends demonstrate when you are in need.

No matter who you are, no matter how dire your situation, no matter how late the hour, parking costs money.

When in doubt, hug.

The people who rise to the occasion are not always the ones you expect to do so, and when they do, it's like you've discovered gold.

When your child has been very ill, you develop an overpowering desire to freeze him in amber and protect him from the world's many dangers.

There is no higher calling than caring for others.

In the end, nothing matters other than family and health.

There's no place like home.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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