Last week I received a touching note from a father whose 3-year-old son was going through a grueling battery of exams in the intensive care unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
The only way his son could calm down, it turns out, was by listening to my song “Stinky Feet.” Because it had helped turn his whines into smiles, the medical staff encouraged his parents to put the song on repeat during his testing. It worked.
It brings me great joy to know that my goofy ditty has helped put that little boy at ease, especially since it’s not one of my more melodic or soothing songs, and, on repeat, would get annoying pretty quickly. This is a reminder to me that parents will do anything to relieve the pain and distress of their children.
Few situations leave parents feeling more helpless than to watch their child suffer, powerless to do anything about it. It requires complete vulnerability and faith to turn the care of your child over to complete strangers whom you trust to be trained well enough to make things right. There’s no parenting manual that can prepare you for that.
My wife and I have been in that situation, and since then we’ve often said that everyone should spend some time in a pediatric intensive care unit to witness the raw human emotion and the miracles that happen there.
We stood in awe of a medical staff that could deftly, professionally and compassionately move from our room to a burn victim in the next room to a heartbreaking child abuse victim in the next.
After being in the PICU for a few days and realizing that our daughter was going to be OK, we noticed that a couple of the nurses were lingering a little longer in our room. When we asked one of them why, she answered, “This is the ‘happy’ room, and some days you need a happy room to balance things out.”
We asked her how she dealt with such horrendous situations on a regular basis.
“Some days are harder than others,” she said. “Some nights when I get home, I have to sit in the driveway and cry for 20 minutes to get it all out of me so I can go inside and be ‘Mom’ to my own family.”
Wow. Just wow.
I’m pretty sure I could never do what they do. I’d be a blubbering wreck. I have utmost respect and gratitude for those who dedicate their lives to helping others, especially those who serve the young and the vulnerable.
To reach Jim Cosgrove, aka children’s entertainer Mr. Stinky Feet, email firstname.lastname@example.org.