The 6th Floor Garden
In February of 2016, Nicholas was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital with generalized body pain, tachycardia, high blood pressure, weight loss, insomnia, anxiety, and a whole host of other ailments that no 12 year old should ever experience. I have mixed feelings about our hospital stay because the outcome of this particular stay was not positive. In fact, I spent a most of the last week in the hospital with tears streaming down my face. The doctors told me they had no diagnosis and no cure for my son. They told me his problem stemmed from anxiety that was most likely caused by my divorce from his father.
But the sadness and defeat we felt isn’t the point of this story. This story is about perspective.
Nicholas was in a shared room, and in the ten days we were at BCH, we experienced five different roommates. Many loud, crying, snoring, throwing, angry moments were witnessed through the curtain that separated us from the neighbors. Because my son was in too much pain to walk, we had a wheelchair. Nicholas and I started out on adventures the very first day. I would lift him into his chair and we would set out on an adventure.
On day one we went out the front doors, down the street and explored Harvard Medical School. VERY cool. We were excited… Until we returned to the floor and found out we were not allowed to leave the BCH campus.. Whoops.
However, the adventure bug had set in.
We found that Boston Children’s Hospital has SO MANY THINGS TO EXPLORE. So very cool. Every day we would set out as soon as Nicholas woke up, usually around 3 AM – did I mention the insomnia? We would stop by the 24 hour Au Bon Pain, get a chocolate croissant for Nicholas, a GIANT coffee for me, and be on our way. At 3 AM, we had a lot of hallways to ourselves. We found a recording studio, a gift shop full of legos – mental reminders to stop by when they were OPEN – a library, a kinetic sculpture, and lots of outside gardens.
Each day we set out early in the morning, returned to see doctors around 10, and headed back out. The nurses were used to seeing us coming and going and frequently offered suggestions of floors with things that might make Nicholas smile. By the end of the first week, we had seen ALMOST everything.
The 6th Floor Garden
Nicholas’ room was on the 7th floor. The window where we sat when stuck in the room waiting for doctors overlooked a beautiful
garden. In the garden we could see a hockey net, soccer balls, sculptures, and benches. Occasionally, we would see children in the garden as well. One afternoon we asked a nurse where we could find the access to this beautiful garden. Her response took me back. “Oh, that’s the 6th Floor Garden. That’s our oncology floor. Only patients staying on that floor have access to the garden.”
Suddenly I did’t want to go to the 6th Floor Garden. The grass in that garden was no longer green and beautiful. I was happy to be locked up on the 7th floor. Suddenly the 7th floor was a blessing. As hard as our problems were, we never once thought this was something that may take his life. As frustrating as it was to have no diagnosis, at least we didn’t have a diagnosis like cancer.
The next morning I saw a young girl, about 6, in the garden. Her mother was pushing the IV pole and they were looking at the sculptures. I had a new appreciation for the children I saw there and the families that accompanied them. The 6th Floor Garden was still a beautiful place, but suddenly I realized it was completely surrounded by walls, as trapped as the people inside it. I was happy to stick to our other adventures around the hospital. We really didn’t need to visit the one garden out of our reach.
I’m sure you can see the metaphor here. We were in a horrible place. Tears never stopped streaming down my face. Yet all I could think about was how blessed we were to be locked out of that 6th Floor Garden. That beautiful garden that I admired from 20 feet up was inaccessible to me – and I was grateful. I was grateful for the problems we had instead of the ones that scared me more.
This thought has crossed my mind more than once, much more so now that we have a cure, my son is healthy, and the fears you feel in a children’s hospital are becoming a memory.
The one thing that will always stick with me is the metaphor of the 6th Floor Garden. It truly is a beautiful place. But people who are struggling with so much pain need a beautiful place to be for a few minutes. We should never be jealous of the beauty someone else gets to enjoy. We truly have no idea what struggles brought them to this beauty.
It’s more important to be grateful for the struggles you have, because those are the ones that will bring you to your own beautiful garden.