Monday, November 30, 2009
The boys test out their new digs at the Children's Inn
There are several reasons why I should be fast asleep right now and several reasons why I woke up and can't sleep right now - so I thought I'd use this chance to write a short "wearing no contacts at 2am but this is my only shot at the computer with all the work Robbie's trying to squeeze in" kind of post. (I'll try not to be too heavy on the details, but I also want other albinism families considering this study to get a sense of what it's like.)
We arrived in DC yesterday after a mercifully short flight and quickly discovered we should have packed lighter jackets. Ah, 56 degrees is bliss.
Most of the day was spent waiting for the shuttle, getting to the National Institute of Health where we were screened and I.D.-ed (is that a verb?), and then settling into our new home at the Children's Inn. The campus is beautiful and the Inn is a humbling example of the depths of human kindness and suffering. This is the place where children undergoing treatments for cancer or involved in studies for genetic conditions stay with their families. Everything is free to the families, including shuttle transportation, access to computers and long-distance calls, weekly dinners, family activities, etc. And the facilities offer full use of high-end kitchens, playrooms, game rooms, etc. They try to make it a home away from home, but it's more like a little Utopian community.
Of course, we are constantly reminded of how fragile and often unfair life is as well. During the shuttle ride up here, I met a woman and her family who have been coming here every other year for years because their daughter has early-onset schizophrenia. I tried to imagine how hard it would be to go several years thinking you had the daughter of your dreams...and then one day your teenager is hearing voices and you're faced with the reality that you'll be taking care of her the rest of her life.
Later, as I flipped through a copy of Parenting magazine left sitting in the communal kitchen, I came across an ad that featuring a beaming little boy and the headline: "Now I get TWO cakes every year - one for my birthday, and one for the day my cancer went away!" The contact information for the drug company had been carefully cut out.
At one point, I mentioned the family affected by schizophrenia to Robbie and he nodded. "I have a feeling we're going to leave this week with a lot of perspective," he said.
I couldn't agree more.
One day into our trip, there are already several highlights. For us, they would include things like meeting many great people and seeing the National Mall at night. For Emerson and Fionn, they include a magical day full of endless escalators, elevators, moving walkways, planes, buses, trains, and even some crazy two-story high airport shuttles that looked better suited to driving over the surface of the moon.
I have a huge passion for traveling, but I have to say that despite the many inconveniences of traveling with small children, seeing the experience through their eyes only heightens the excitement. During the shuttle ride to the NIH, for example, the windows were so large that Emerson could see cars driving by on the freeway for the first time in his life. Every car, SUV and truck that passed was another thrilling adventure!
As we rode the metro downtown, I watched his eyes get bigger and bigger the faster the train moved. From his perspective, I realized the tunnel streaming by and the pulse of lights did look a lot like hyper-drive in some space movie. Oh, and don't even get me started on the Christmas lights. At one point he fell asleep in the stroller, only to wake up an hour later on a street filled with lighted trees and cars rushing by. We were walking along in silence and then suddenly his head pops up and he shouts "OH WOW!!!"
Ok, now I should really try to get to sleep. We have a long day of testing ahead of us, so wish us happy children and good hospital food.