So I went to St. Jude with Ingram and Ashley today. While I've been several times, I wanted to watch them do the radiation and just hang out with Ingram and Ashley for a day. There were a few things that really got my attention.
The first thing was what a stud Ingram is. Ashley keeps telling me about how funny he is when he goes back for radiation and how he likes to help the doctors. You really have to see it to fully appreciate it. When they called his name, he skipped down the hall poking his head in all of the rooms looking for his anesthesiologist - Dr. Bikazi. When he finally found him, Ingram got a huge grin on his face. Next, we went to Ingram's room and he hopped up on the bed. He immediately started getting his IVs out so he could clean them with antiseptic wipes before they flushed the lines. Then he helped put on his pulse/ox monitor (the little thing that they tape to your finger with the red light). Then he wanted to put it on me. Some of the doctors didn't know he had switched it to my finger and were alerted when it was showing some funny results. When the nurse wanted to measure how big his muscles were (blood pressure), he told her to wait while he finished his Play-Doh. Ingram is definitely a little helper and he's about as headstrong as Madison, his oldest sister. He is much different than his sister, though, in that he is now tough as nails when it comes to doctors' offices. I've always been amazed at how tough the little kids are who are forced to deal with things like this. No three year-old should have to know what an IV is, much less how to clean his own. The first time I came to radiation, he was tough. But not this tough.
The second thing that struck me today was how amazing the people at St. Jude really are. Every time I walk in the hospital, I come away so appreciative for the skill and attitude of the people there. This time was no different. They understand children and are so patient with them. There was a nice volunteer there playing Play-Doh with Ingram (if you're looking for something to do with some spare time, go talk to them about volunteering - it is such a blessing to the parents and kids there). The nurses all knew Ingram. They all talked to him. He really likes all of them. It is reassuring to me to watch this process unfold. The head of anesthesiology, Dr. Bikazi, is both a great doctor and a little kid at heart. He has to be to be able to connect with a three year-old like he does. One of the radiation guys (there is probably a more formal title that I am unaware of), Chance, took me through the radiation area explaining every little detail. The whole place is full of patient and talented professionals who seem to genuinely care about my son.
Watching the radiation process was a bit overwhelming. I don't think I can sufficiently describe all of the feelings I had, but there were certainly a lot of them. It was seemingly a study in contrasts. Ingram was strapped down to a board and his head was held in place by a molded face mask. All the while, he was sedated, had an oxygen mask, and of course his IV was in his chest. There were cameras from many angles showing everything that happened. When they set him up for radiation, they have a margin of error of 1mm. They use lasers to match up Ingram's position with where it is supposed to be. The radiation oncologist, Dr. Merchant, has a target margin of error of 3mm with the radiation beams. So you can imagine that if Ingram's body is slightly out of position, the radiation would kill good brain cells which we want to keep. I described it as a study in contrasts for two reasons. First, there was a sense of precision, perfection, sterility, and the pinnacle of technological organization. And the point of the process is to destroy... to destroy the pinnacle of God's creation - albeit flawed - part of the human body. And yet it is for the good of Ingram's body. Second, I was struck by the significant human intelligence represented in the radiation process, in contrast to Ingram's innocence. It was a surreal experience that I am still trying to comprehend.
And finally, I was really overwhelmed with how lucky the world is to have Ashley. I've said before how lucky our family is to have her. But it's not just us. It's everyone who comes into her path. She is so strong, and she constantly serves others. She has turned all of the scary parts of being in the hospital into games. You have, no doubt, seen what I mean in her blog posts. Her attitude is always positive, and infectious. She knows so many of the kids and parents up there because she takes an interest in them. She talks to everyone and plays with all of the kids. From the outside, you'd never know that she was also bearing the burden of having a sick child. It is really fun to watch God shine His light through her.