Monday, August 18, 2003


This past weekend, we flew to Norfolk, Virginia for my son's post operative assessment. That's nothing unusual in itself as we've been going for almost 20 years. What was different was the gamut of emotion we both experienced throughout the weekend.

I'm still processing it and realising that many things have changed over the years, the least of which is the city itself. From a decaying deserted downtown core it's become a vibrant hub of activity..... restaurants, pubs and shops.....many of our favourite restaurants no longer in existence, and even in the short time since we've been there, stores and old haunts have replaced by newcomers.

Even Ronald McDonald House....our home away from home for many stays, has changed, almost doubling in size. The manager, Miss Ellie, still welcoming those who walk through the front door with a welcome and a hug, has been the heart and soul of the House for years. When we walked across the threshold....she was instantly there, arms open, waiting to give us a hug.

And then moments later, she did the same to a very young mother whose daughter has leukemia and had just experienced a seizure. In what seemed like seconds, she went from being a sick child knowing her mother's love, concern and support to not being aware at all.....the results of the seizure. Her mother wanting reassuring words of hope that she wouldn't lose her "baby"....words no one could give her because that couldn't be promised.

Emotions ran rampant.....thoughts of how could I help her through this? How is Michael feeling as he watched this? The first thing that came to mind was that I am SO blessed. As much as we have dealt with many challenges over the years, none have been life threatening and for that we are very very grateful. Watching my son silently fighting back tears because he felt what she was going through on an emotional scale of his own.....wanting things to be better for her....for others going through the same or similar circumstances.... a woman husband to rely on and share the hell she was going through....having to figure it out on her own with the people she'd come to know in the "house" that love built (the motto of Ronald McDonald House and one I heartily agree with).

I wish I could have waved a magic wand over them to make everything better....but I couldn't. The paramedics came in mere minutes and with their reassuring soft voices spoke to the child and her mother, giving them some semblance of calm, at least for the moment while they readied the small girl for the ambulance. All I could do is listen and hope that some how......some way, everything would turn out well for both of them....for the little girl so she wouldn't know suffering and strength for her mother to handle whatever it was that she would have to deal with.

We left that night both thinking our own thoughts......leaving them to share later the next day. In the meantime we still had to process everything the surgeon told Michael, possibilities she could foresee for his future.

And as we sat in the airport, waiting for the bad weather to pass so we could fly home, again we talked about our intense weekend. Amazing how much one can experience in a few short days, starting with a province-wide power failure, trauma, storms, drastic change of a city we once thought we knew like the back of our hand, once again delayed flights and storms and, in the centre of it all a kind of a calm, not sure if it's exhaustion, overriding the emotions simmering under the surface or if indeed I have processed it all.

Today back to and running......schedules and responsibilities. Will it all fade? Most probably to some extent, though, whenever I speak to Miss Ellie at the "House" I'll be told the latest update, asked what I think might be the best way to deal with "this and that" instigating new insights and ideas. One constant is always wondering at how I can work to change the system to give help to those who need it desperately…..until the next visit or call for help.

Puts everything in perspective……

Best to all of you...

Donna Karlin

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