Sam seemed to wake up in good spirits at 7 am and then crashed into a my-life-sucks tantrum around 8:30 am. It was agreed during rounds that he should receive blood today since his tantrums are usually an indication that he needs some help maintaining his counts and his good spirits. After rounds I gave Sam a little bit of perspective as he complained how he is the only one in his family to be sick. I asked him if this hospital was empty. I asked him if he saw little kids the size of Solly and smaller on his floor. I asked if this building was empty. I helped him see that while this sucked, he was not the only kid going through this. I explained that hospitals, like this one, are filled with sick and healing children throughout every major metropolitan city in this country. I talked about countries that don't have hospitals like this where children get sick and die simply because they can't get clean drinking water. I explained that not everyone has siblings that are perfect matches to help them get better. I held up his blessings and I held up some of the scourges of life on this planet. With tears rolling down my face I held up a mirror of reality so that he might see the difference between life sucking temporarily and what real unfairness looks like in this world. I'm not sure if it was my speech or my tears that quieted him down. Maybe the meds just kicked in and the itching just stopped.
(ok that's only sort of what he looked like this morning.
Really that is just a great face he made when he lost a point during our amazing Wii tennis match)
And then Bubbe and Zayde arrived with some superfood for Superman Sam. (We ran out of mac and cheese.) We ate, and talked. Sam wasn't thrilled with the lack of math problems he received in his homework from school. First I created a few pages of math problems. Then I had him write me a story in Spanish. When my math problems didn't prove challenging enough Sam had Zayde create another page of math problems and when those were done and Bubbe and Zayde had to go, Sam had me make a more challenging set of math problems just like Zayde's set.
While waiting for blood to arrive to help Sam's counts and hemoglobin Sam had rebounded so much that he was up for some Wii tennis. First he played by himself. Then when he was ready to crush his dear old dad, he invited me into the game. Connors and McEnroe would have been proud. Sammy was so joyous you would have thought his evil twin had taken his place briefly this morning. But this is how it goes when you've been away for five months and forget symptoms of a body's progression through chemotherapy. It is what it is.
In the midst of our major tennis matches downstairs called to inform me that the mail delivery person was simply coming directly to our room to drop off the 23 packages that arrived today. You all really know how to make a little guy feel loved (or at least showered in gifts and prizes to try to distract his geographical awareness from remembering that he is living in the hospital once again). And let me tell you it worked.
Sam devoured his gifts as if he'd never received anything before in his lifetime. He was like a kid on his birthday or Erev Chanukah. He got amazing books and gadgets from Rabbis all over the land. He got a wonderful D.A.R.E. kit from Chief Rotella of the Upper Saddle River Police Dept. with pictures of their really cool D.A.R.E. Truck. Some of my other kids still have D.A.R.E. shirts from when Asst. Chief Cuozzo was D.A.R.E. cop in Orange, CT. Battle of the Departments! I feel a softball tournament in our future to raise money for cancer! NJ vs CT perhaps? I know training for Marathons is more Chief Rotella's style but departments joining forces to battle cancer can't be a bad thing. Support your local officers!
It also helps to know a famous young adult and children's books author. My friend, Erica Perl, sent two signed copies of her incredible books for Sam to enjoy. It was so warming to think of a friendship reunited after 28 years being honored in such fashion (THANKS NeFTY! Still paying dividends after all these years).
But really, gift after gift, they were all so incredible. We know it isn't all about gifts, but Sammy still takes such pleasure in both receiving the gifts and in choosing what presents he will share with the rest of the kids in the hospital. He could clearly tell that the girl books were meant for both his sister, Yael, as well as for girls here in the hospital also trying to get better (He was pretty sure the glitter nail polish set was for Solly's pink toe nails). His mother was sure that the Michigan T-Shirt was for some other family in an entirely different state.
This incredible collection of t-shirts of all superman shapes and sizes (socks and a hat too!) came all the way from DENMARK!! Sam is excited to share the clothing with his family and other kids in the hospital.
One large box contained almost 100 individual books and items for Sam and kids here at Children's Hospital.
And upon completion of unpacking everything Sammy dug in to build a wood model airplane (once the nurses procured a screw driver for him).
This took us into early evening, to dinner time, movie time, a happy, go lucky Sammy who seemed to lose all his cares about being in the hospital once again. A gracious, rambunctious and funny kid, the furthest place away from the unhappy tantrum throwing kid who greeted me this morning.
He was comfortable for the first time in days. At ease with himself and all the nurses. Giggling, playing and just enjoying the amazingness of it all. He was my son, back from the brink chemo often takes him to. Back for a day of being grateful he is loved by friends and family alike. So thank you, all of you (you know who you all are! Yes, you, the ones we probably told gifts weren't necessary, but you ignored us anyway). Thank you with my eternal gratitude for being so amazing, so generous and so loving. The names didn't track with Sammy who didn't recognize most of them. But they meant the world to Phyllis and I who can't believe sometimes how truly blessed we are to have you all in our lives.