Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written.
Gopher, Squirrel, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
A simple walk, something many take for granted at one point or another. It is also one of the final things needed before you can leave the hospital after a surgical procedure. Walk, defecate, urinate and able to eat and you get to leave.
Gopher walking with my niece, not the patient in this story.
What would you do if you were at that age when you wanted to be like your friends and now due to a surgery in the middle of the school year you were different? A surgery that was just the start for a number of treatments over a long period of time to remind you of the difference. A start of a journey that would forever change you when all you want to do is blend in and not be different. A journey that had a good prognosis, but was very scary. You still don’t feel great, but have done all of the steps to get discharged, but the walk. Would it hit you at that time, as long as I am here I do not have to face my friends and my room as a different person? Maybe you would put that walk off, hold off facing being the different kid a bit longer? Maybe put off the upcoming challenges for a little longer?
That is the situation Gopher and I found a patient facing not too long ago, a young patient who just needed to go for a walk so that they could be discharged, just completing the first step on what would be a long journey. However staying in the moment allowed the patient did not have to go on to the next step and face the world being the different kid.
Gopher and I arrived at the room, knocked and entered. Our young patient lay on the bed, morose, and ignoring mothers prodding to get up and going. As soon as Gopher pranced into the room and with a gentle swish of the tail her face brightened and her eyes lit up. She invited Gopher up on the bed and thankfully Gopher looked to me and waited giving me a chance to grabbed a drop cloth.
Once on the bed she proceeded to inspect every golden lock and stroked his velvety ears. Mom and I spoke for a bit while she spent time burying her face in his coat. Once again, her mother asked her if they could go for a walk, but the request fell on deaf ears.
“You know Gopher likes to go for walks.” I tried in hopes of urging her, “Would you like to take him for a walk?” Gopher looked up, cocked his head and smiled and with a subtle finger movement looked away from me and to her.
“Well he does look like he wants to go for a walk, I think I can take him.”
In just a matter of moments she was on the edge of the bed steadying herself. I handed over the end of the leash and took hold of a section in the middle. Off we went, slow at first, then the pace quickened slightly. On hand holding the leash and an IV pole, the other stroking Gopher’s back. We walked circling the floor, we get back to her room. Her mother told it was time to go back in the room, “Mom, can I just go around one more time with Gopher?” she asked smiling still petting him. We went for one more lap bid our farewells and left.
Such a simple thing a walk, but something so necessary. Given the journey ahead we are so thankful that we may have the opportunity to help some more, with other future steps like those she shared with Gopher that day helping face the little fears with a new confidence and with less fear.
Don't forget, we are in need of more cuddle caps if you feel so inclined!
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