As I mentioned yesterday, friends, Children’s Memorial Hospital is moving to its new location in just a few days. It’s the hospital where I had my first surgery at just 10 weeks old. It’s the hospital where I took my first steps in physical therapy when I was four years old (though according to my mother, those first steps were met with pain and some shrill screams on my part…). It’s the hospital where I spent my formative years. So when I had the chance to visit last weekend, I was more than ready to take a walk down memory lane. I hadn’t walked (or should I say wheeled…) those halls in some 15 years. Would things be as I remembered them? Or had things changed, just as I’d changed? I was about to find out…
The hospital is nestled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, where tall, brick apartments and green trees line the streets. We couldn’t believe how much the neighborhood had changed — new shops and new restaurants — but in a strange way, everything still looked the same. Some of the old restaurants we used to go to were still there!
Apparently, when I was really young, according to my mother, the second the looming hospital came into view outside the car window, I’d begin to cry. I knew what was coming, and I didn’t like it one bit. But seeing it now didn’t seem nearly as fear-inducing — or tear-inducing, for that matter. Sure, it helped knowing that I wasn’t going to be poked and prodded once I stepped through those doors helped a bit, but that dread that was all too familiar at one time? It seemed to be replaced by nostalgia. I must have walked in and out of those doors thousands of times, on my way to doctors’ appointments and on my way home from my latest surgery. The doors, I realized became the metaphorical boundary line between my normal life outside the hospital and my medical life inside the hospital’s hallowed halls.
There’s something just so utterly amazing about sense memory, isn’t there? It’s one of those things that can kick in when you least expect it. By the time we’d made our way to the lobby, it all began to sink in. The smells of my childhood. I didn’t remember just how much I’d forgotten that smell — such a powerful sense, isn’t it? And although the lobby had been remodeled since my days, it still felt the same. There was the cluster of chairs where we used to sit when my mom would get it in her head that I needed to get out of my room and go on a walk. And there were the same cluster of elevators that would take us up to…
My home away from home: 3 West. I spent many days there recovering from surgeries. My longest stint? 31 days when I developed a bacterial infection; I actually spent my 11th birthday in the hospital that year. My mother never let me stay in bed for long, though, and before I knew it, she was pushing me around in a banana cart (have you heard of those? They’re actually shaped like a banana…). I’d marvel at the flurry of activity as doctors, nurses and patients scurried up and down the halls. Or, if my dad was taking me around, I listen as he told story after story to take my mind off things. Just like the lobby, 3 West looked different (it used to be bright yellow, for one thing), but my mom could still point out the exact room I was in the most. Have I ever told you about my love of a good, comfy hospital bed, friends?
Hope you like these photos. Look for part two tomorrow, where I’ll share stories of my times in ICU, my early fears of physical therapy, the most calming spot in the hospital and a surprise appearance by someone special… xoxo
[Photos taken by my mom, who also captured my 30th birthday bash]