It contains all the emotions in the world: anxiety, great joy, insurmountable pain, and everything in between. In the place that works miracles, I saw tiny hands emerging from under blankets and beeping, flashing lights on monitors around every room. I saw parents holding their newborns tight and cuddling their blanketed bundles. And I saw tiny heads emerge from underneath the blankets and take in the world.
The newborns’ wing of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital was full of the joy and trauma of birth, and there was scarcely space for all the bodies. Its rooms, packed with babies, individual voices quieted by beeping from every angle, contained the sickly and the worried, too. A branch off of one room had a baby connected to more equipment than a press room, with the 15-day old child on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation), a high risk life support system. I couldn’t help but realize the purpose of the multipurpose room in the wing and I hoped that it wouldn’t have to be used soon, though I know that despite all good intentions, there is sometimes no cure for the sickly.
On my Meet St. Louis guided tour, I was able to see both the beating hearts of newborns and the struggles faced when one passes away. My group was taken outside to a beautiful garden, where we saw a Mickey Mouse statue in memory of a child along with several other items for remembrance. There were pools of water with pennies at the bottom and I only wish there was more copper when I glanced down at the bottom. For when I walked downstairs, I saw a collection of couples with flowers and teddy bears in their hands remembering their lost children.
At the hospital, it could not have been more obvious to me how much the nurses and the hospital cared for the patients. A mother told the story of her daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, who would play trivia games, decorate her room, and enjoy the doting, kind nurses who would always offer to help out and make them more comfortable, even at the darkest hours of night. An impactful portion of the St. Louis community has gathered together to make the hospital as homely, accommodating, and pleasant as possible.
Meet St. Louis, a program through the Gephardt Institute at Washington University, has shown me merely one snippet of the St. Louis community. I left the program wanting to help, wanting to raise money for the hospital through the Dance Marathon fundraiser occurring in November, and wanting everyone to experience what I had seen in just a couple hours. I know my fellow WashU Bears felt the same way.
My biggest and only regret on my Meet St. Louis experience was not dropping a penny into the pool. It seems silly, dwelling on this sort of thing, though I know how much miracles are needed and I don’t know why I hesitated without acting before my group left the garden. But I know I’ll be back, simply to care for the community and the place which I can now call home.