January 17

Susan - South Hadley, Massachusetts
Entered on February 9, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, illness

The health of children is the center of my universe. I am a mother, and a resident, soon to be a pediatrician. Even more fundamental than health, however, is the life of a child. When I was in medical school, and going through the process of filling out the application to become a resident, I told a friend that I would write an essay about my belief that I feel the death of a child is simply wrong. Ultimately, I shied away from the topic, being told that seemed like I suffered from a grossly misguided sense of what was possible. This sense of “wrong”, however, I still feel. To fight death is not realistic, is not possible, and is probably not even a good idea at times. Yet, to do everything in my power to play a small role in curing a potentially fatal condition, is the most noble thing I could do as a pediatrician. This is fighting death.

It would be easy to assume that my reason for joining the fight arose from the period when my son was ill as a toddler. He was on chemotherapy for many months, with multiple hospital stays, and all the associated triumphs and setbacks. Actually, my drive came from my childhood. When I was six, my fourteen year-old sister died of complications from brain surgery. Laurie was a kind and quiet girl, with a strong love of music and reading. I remember brief snapshots, and cherish the stories told about her. My favorite story tells of when she came home with a black eye, after standing up to a bully who was picking on another kid at school. This person was unknown to her, and my sister was the least likely person to be this anonymous kid’s champion. Yet, she fought that fight, which was what she believed. I can only imagine the glorious woman she would have grown to become, had her fight not been lost.

Twenty years later, when my son was born on the anniversary of Laurie’s birth, I hoped he would inherit her sense of kindness, and her strength, among all the other hopes I had for him. I had no idea that he would also inherit challenges that would ultimately take away part of his hearing and make him dependent on medication for life. Today, I am very happy to know he has a full and happy life ahead of him. I am also proud to say he has inherited my late sister’s love of reading, her kindness and her belief in friendship. His fight was won.

There are many more battles to be fought. This I believe.