In a few previous posts I have written about my time at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. It perhaps is a place that I could write dozens of stories about, as there were all kinds of people that I met there as a young boy. I was exposed to individuals from various ethnicities, religions, and family backgrounds. Children’s was a place that taught me that we are all people and that we should treat each other with respect. It also was a place that showed me just how funny life can be.
As I’ve noted before I was often at Children’s for extended periods of time. During these stays I had the opportunity to experience things that other children my age would never experience. For instance, there were times when naval recruits from Great Lakes Naval Station, which is just north of Chicago, would come by and visit patients. I remember one time a particular recruit came to visit me. He was a pretty good artist and he made a drawing for me. This is a picture that I still have stored away somewhere.
When these young sailors would come by for a visit it would make me feel very special because they gave me their full attention. I felt like I was important to them. These feelings are something that I will never forget.
I also had some interesting roommates along the way during my stays at Children’s. One that often comes to mind when I think of those days is a little girl by the name of Courtney. She rarely had family come to see her, which always made me feel sorry for her, as it can be terrifying to be in the hospital all alone. This is especially true for a young child.
It was around Easter one year when Courtney and I were roommates, and to help her feel better, my mother and father went out and bought her an Easter bonnet and a small purse. These are two things that I am sure she had never had before. When she saw them her eyes lit up as if they were the greatest things she had ever seen. I can remember Courtney calling her parents and telling them about the gifts she had received. It was heartbreaking to learn that just a few weeks later her brother had gotten jealous of the gifts she had received and proceeded to fill her purse with dirt. I would like to know what became of Courtney along with some of the other people that I met while I was in the hospital.
Despite the pain I was often in when I was in the hospital, the nurses and doctors always seemed to make things better. I think this was because they knew how to treat children who were suffering. Plus there always seemed to be plenty of things to do to keep one’s mind off of the pain. For instance, you could make your way up to the ninth floor where there were a few arcade games to play. Or, there were often magic shows put on by a local magician by the name of Danny Orleans.
Growing up I was a huge fan of Matchbox and Hot Wheels toy cars, and the gift shop at Children’s was always a treasure trove for these. I can remember several times when I was hospitalized that my parents and I would go to the gift shop where I was allowed to pick out one or two Matchbox cars. I still have many of these stored away. They will always bring back great memories.
Then of course there was the tutor who you went to if you were in the hospital for an extended period. She was kind of a crotchety old lady who would look over her wire-rimmed glasses at you as she spoke. You would think having to do school work while hospitalized would have been torture. The tutor that I had while at Children’s made it all worthwhile though. I am sure she had been a teacher in the Chicago Public School System since around the time that Al Capone ruled the city. However, despite her gruff exterior she was actually charming in her own special way. I think she had a good heart and truly cared for the children with whom she was working. I just wish her memory had been a little sharper, because she never could get my name correct. For some reason she always called me Roger, which to this day is one of the nicknames that my family uses for me. I never really had the heart to correct her. This woman, I am certain, has long since passed, but the memory of her will live on every time someone calls me Roger.