At one point last week, I was listening as Grandgirl #1 explained the electric circuit board she’d just created while watching Grandgirl #2 prance proudly in her unicorn costume. Science + Spirit…sacred ground in my Articles of Faith.
That was my flashback moment yesterday as I walked through the Children’s Hospital Colorado lobby, seeing other three- and seven-year-olds—as well as days-old infants and teens—with the people who love them. What touched me most, having been with my girls, was the energy moms, dads and grandparents were investing in making those moments the best they could be. Some were understandably solemn, but many were laughing with their kids and looking for ways to include siblings in the conversation. They were patting tiny backs in hopes of burps and reminding young burp experts that this was not the place. Wheelchairs and custom medical strollers were peripheral: these were simply families being families.
My interview was with the chief of the Department of Pediatrics. The University of Colorado/Children’s Hospital affiliation calls both entities to collaborate on physician education, research, clinical care and advocacy. If your life has been touched by a premie who survived because of nitric oxide therapy or a teen child living well with Cystic Fibrosis, or if you’ve received your own care from a nurse practitioner, you’ve benefited from scientific magic originating here. But yesterday’s conversation was not on achievements: it was about the Department’s planning for the future of child health, and how to get from here to there.
I asked how severe the impact of the health care bill now in Congress would be for this place and these families. After a long pause, he answered, “A full 50% of the children hospitalized here—the sickest of the kids we see—are Medicaid beneficiaries.” I thought back to the families waiting in the lobby. He added, “We can’t control most of these external forces. So our task is to focus intensely on all the factors we can control—care quality, professional training, community connection, research, efficiency, informatics, legislative advocacy—to meet our mission. That is our work.”
I left wishing the grandmothers I know—most of whom are resisting the now-delayed health plan, as well as others who still see Trump as a savior—could join me on those red lobby benches to talk. They love their grandkids as much as I love mine. And ultimately, all these kids are ours.
Until that time, I will focus on the factors I can control. That is my work.
Well, that, and praying for small unicorns.