Friday, March 12, 2010

A Smile Needs No Translation

The last few posts have been somewhat lighthearted as we have processed and dealt with all of our emotions. We have had wonderful times of laughter; a needed balance to the heartache, visions and frustrations that we have witnessed and experienced this week.

The following are some of our thoughts to share with you from our visit to the children’s hospital, which is funded and run by the Romanian government.

Not knowing what to expect I was a little nervous when the children came to their lunchroom. Would I be able to communicate with them, help them or most important of all make a connection with them? This little girl walked in with a little pink bathrobe and sat at the end of the table, with her head down. But I caught her eyes looking up at all the art supplies on the table. I pointed to the foam craft, smiled at her and asked if she wanted to use these. She looked down, but nodded her head, yes. I helped her with the project, talking to her, not knowing if she understood me or not. When she put the last piece on her artwork I looked at it and said “Pretty” that’s when I felt her small hand on my arm. I looked into her face and she was smiling at me. My whole chest hurt and I knew then I had made a connection with her. –Laura

I had prepared myself for a pretty dismal sight when we visited the children’s hospital and I was not disappointed. From the chunks of tiles missing, to holes in the walls to the terrible smells, this is what I saw. And yet, here were these children, some abandoned and alone and some with dedicated parents, in this place that we would deem so horrible. This is their reality. I knew within this reality, we had come to bring one small light to shine; one spark to light a fire. Just spending a small amount of time with these children, we were able to see their light shine. They showed us their happiness and their smiles in a difficult situation. A child’s resilience can teach an adult a lifetime of lessons. I came hoping to help the children of Oradea – and in a small way I think I have. But more importantly is what the children and families of Oradea have taught me. This makes the love and dedication I have for children all the more stronger and I thank them for that.


I had the rare privilege of being asked by the staff to come spend time with a 2-and-a-half year old girl, whose room was at the end of the oncology ward. She stays in the back. She is very sick. She has no family. As the nurse and interpreter escorted me further and further away from the rest of the children and our Child Life staff, despair wrapped itself around me, weighing me down. Neither woman looked at or spoke to me. The door that separated these isolation rooms from the rest of the world shut behind us like a prison door. It was truly isolation. After putting on a gown, shoe covers and a mask, the nurse escorted me into the patient’s room. She picked up the little girl, who had been sleeping in her crib, place her in my arms, and said her name, “Victoria…Vicki”. The interpreter informed me that I would be alone until they came back to get me. There would be no one to stay and help. They walked away.

I peered over the mask that covered my mouth and nose and looked at this precious one. Her eyes were swollen shut, bruised. She leaned her head back as far as she could to try to see the stranger holding her. Vicki put her arms straight out over my shoulders, for what I assumed was a hug. When I attempted to embrace her, she stiffened herself to keep me right where I was. There would be no hug. I showed Vicki the activities I had with me. I encouraged her to touch them, feel them. I described what they looked like. She showed little interest. She quickly became fussy, and fearing the staff’s response I looked around the room to find something to interest her. There was a t.v. and a few broken toys. I softly whispered her name, “Vicki”, began to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, and danced slowly around the tiny gray room. As we two-stepped around the room, Vicki grew drowsy, although she refused to put her head on my shoulder. The room was hot. She was dressed in a long-sleeve sweatshirt and sweatpants. Her cheeks were pink with fever. Heat radiated from her bald head. We continued to dance ever so gently until I could get her to the window, hoping she might be able to see the children playing in the park below us. The more we danced, the sleepier she got until she drifted off in my arms. The instant I stopped dancing, she raised her head and tapped my shoulder with her little hand. Understanding my cue, I whispered her name, “Vicki”, and began to sing our song and two-step around this lonely isolation room, at the end of the cancer ward, above a park, on the way to heaven. ~ Jada

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