56: Playing with Angels

56: Playing with Angels

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Playing with Angels

We pass now quickly from each other’s sight; but I know full well that where beyond these passing scenes you shall be, there will be Heaven.

~Joshua Chamberlain

The first time I walked in his room, I knew there was something special about him. Taking care of him always made my day.

Connor was only six months old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He spent the next nine months in the hospital. Whether I was administering painful steroid eye drops, or drawing blood from his central line, he smiled at me behind his pacifier. All the nurses were ecstatic when we heard he would receive a bone marrow transplant from his sister, a perfect match.

After his transplant, he stayed in a Ronald McDonald house for six months until he was deemed stable enough to go home. Shortly after, Connor’s mother noticed a lump behind his ear and took him to the doctor. A biopsy revealed a relapse of AML. Connor had to gear up for a new, more intense round of chemotherapy, which would hopefully be followed by another bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.

Throughout everything, Connor always kept that smile that could brighten any room. When he came back to us he still had that smile, but by then he could talk. Hearing him say my name with his sweet voice made my heart melt. He loved to run around the unit chasing nurses, chasing his sister, and riding on his IV pole with his dad. To say he was a happy child would be an understatement. And that was his mother’s goal, to keep him happy.

His family had agreed that they would continue treatments as long as Connor was still happy. Unfortunately, after several rounds of chemotherapy, a missed window for bone marrow transplant due to a sick donor, and another relapse, he was out of options. Seven months from his initial relapse, Connor went home on hospice.

Sometimes, as a pediatric oncology nurse, it is easier to imagine that these kids go home and have some sort of miracle. So if we never see them again we can pretend it’s because they are still living and growing up, playing with their friends, going to school, like every kid should. Connor, however, came back to us. His parents decided it would be too traumatizing for his sister if he died at home.

When he first came back, he slept most of the time. The doctors figured he had about a week left. One week turned into two, and Connor continued to amaze everyone. After sleeping for days, he would wake up and want to play. He wouldn’t play alone, though. He told his mom, “Look, look!” and he giggled and smiled with his new friend that only he could see. “An angel!”

This continued for almost three weeks. Connor would sleep for a couple of days, and then wake up and play with angels for a few hours before going back to sleep. I watched in amazement as this little boy taught me about faith.

One night, as I took care of Connor, his breathing worsened, his color changed, and his alertness decreased significantly. At the family’s request, I called the chaplain at 11:00 p.m. They asked if I could stay in the room. My coworkers encouraged me to do so, even taking over the rest of my patient load so I could provide support to this very special family.

We sat and talked all night. We laughed about our favorite Connor memories. We cried, thinking about a future without this beautiful child. His mom said she knew I loved Connor. His parents expressed their impending grief and fear of the unknown. They told me, however, about their undying faith, and their certainty that their son was about to become an angel, welcomed into heaven.

The hours passed, and at 7:00 a.m., it was time for me to give shift report. I told the family and the chaplain I would be back to say goodbye before heading home. As I started to give report to the day shift nurse, I looked over, and Connor’s dad was waving in the window for me to come back in the room.

I sprinted as fast as I could to see Connor awake, waving and yelling out, “Bye!” He looked right at me, waved, and said, “Bye!” He gazed at each person in the room… his mom, his dad, his sister, the chaplain… waved to each and said, “Bye!”

His parents then lay down in bed next to him and he turned to look at his dad. His dad kissed him and said, “It’s okay. You can go, you can go. I love you, I love you, I love you.” Connor touched his face, and then turned and looked at his mom. She kissed him and then whispered to him, “I love you, I love you. I will see you again. You can go, I love you.” And with that, he touched his mom’s face, lay on his back, and passed away.

As the entire room burst into tears, there was an unspoken certainty that we just witnessed something truly amazing. Connor was playing with the angels again.

~Molly K.

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