In order to get a minor cough checked out, Hana was taken to Kaiser on Wednesday February 11. By the end of that evening she was in the intensive care unit of UCSF’s new children’s hospital and after a long and sleepless session that takes the form of a blurred collage of pediatricians, intensivists, registered nurses, medical devices, opinions, sunrises, sunsets, and a helicopter ride to Stanford children’s heart transplant center, we were surrounded by top pediatricians and cardiologists.
Hana was in the intensive care unit and she had every medication needed to keep her heart pumping; plus an ECMO machine that would pump and oxygenate her blood if needed. We stayed with her until Kathleen and I finally lied down and got some sleep in a small room in the ICU. The dust from the chaos finally seemed to start to settle.
We spent the whole next day with her, listening to doctors and nurses, taking notes, surrounding her with toys, and reading some familiar books to her. Her eyes were always either half closed with fatigue or open and wondering… but one time, they looked afraid, as if to ask: mom! dad! why is this happening?
In the midst of feeling helpless to do anything but give her comfort and encouragement, I realized what day it was, Valentines Day. I am here on my daughter’s first Valentine’s day! Her heart is in already hurting, so the thought of breaking her heart is inconceivable. She’s too young to know it’s Valentine’s Day, she won’t remember, etc.. these thoughts were all trivial.
I remember reading years ago in a Chinese Taoist book that different organs like different colors. For example white is a good color for the lungs, the liver likes green, and the heart like red. So Red is good for the heart, Hana’s heart is in trouble, and its Valentines Day? Of course I need to go and get a Valentine for Hana!
When I had a chance, I walked over to Stanford mall and looked everywhere for some kind of valentine. She can’t eat chocolate and she usually pull flowers apart, so after searching for a while I envisioned what I wanted: a small red heart-shaped pillow-like thing that I could hang above her in bed.
I looked around and found some fancy big designer pillows, a Clifford the big red dog, and a stuffed valentine skunk who had a heart hanging from his tail and sang while shaking it. During the search though 20 stores, I had picked up some red felt hearts, some heart streamers, and a baby valentine book; but no heart.
Finally, I walked into a store on the outskirts of town and in one aisle noticed a stuffed dog with a stuffed red heart on his collar. The look on his face wasn’t one of pity, like a little puppy who needs rescued by a kiddo but more one of generosity, like a St Bernard who has just rescued you from an avalanche. And looking closer I noted that his heart could be removed from his collar and no one would know the difference; he would still look just as happy without his flair.
I bought the heart of course but removed the dog and gave him back to the cashier. I took the heart back to Hana – along with her Valentine book and heart decorations – and hung the heart up above her in bed.
Happy Valentines Day, lil Hana… you’ll always have my heart!
ps: Here’s Hana with the little red heart above her, it says Amor (love) on one side.