Saturday, March 29, 2014
The Quantum House and Mario Cart
I don't think these letters would ever be complete if we didn't mention where we've been staying for these past few months. After we were discharged from the hospital, we were taken in at The Quantum House: a charity residence next to St. Mary's. Its doors are open to parents who don't live nearby and have children in the hospital. Since our own house is a little over an hour away from the hospital, we were eligible to hang our hats at Quantum.
NICU parents only compose a fraction of the residents. There is a doctor with quite a bit of notoriety at St. Mary's hospital who is a pioneer in the new medical field of bone lengthening, so most of the parents at The Quantum House have children with bone issues, usually with one limb being considerably shorter than the other. From my understanding, their bones are broken during surgery and large pins inserted through their skin and tissue and into the bones. As the bone attempts to heal, the pins are used to pull the bones further and further apart, thus causing the bone to continue to grow and lengthen. Many of the children have come from as far away as California, Washington state, and Russia to undergo this procedure, and they typically return throughout their childhood. I'm embarrassed to say that, after 2 plus months here, I still don't know the names of most of the parents. I only know them in relation to their children: Lidia's Mom, Jackson's Mom, Stephanie's Mom, Ethan's Mom...
Early on, the kids here helped me keep my sanity. There is a game room at Quantum and whenever the NICU was closed, I honed my Mario Cart skills. Unfortunately, the kids had way more practice than I did at first which lead to a number of humiliating defeats. One of the nine year old boys learned that he could lure me back to the game room whenever he wanted by referencing my defeats over and over again. Having not been called a "loser" by a petulant child in at least 20 years hardened my resolve. I used the advantages of being an adult (like not having a bedtime) to refine my skills. It wasn't long before I had enough victories under my belt to throw those same accusations back at him (out of earshot of his mother, of course). What's more, I made a bet with him that if I could beat him 10 consecutive times at the Pokemon Card game, he must stop calling me names. He was no match for my superior grown-up intellect, and I haven't allowed him to forget it! If ever he ever acts up, I just cite the fact that his mother cuts up his food for him, too.
So far, I can consistently beat every kid at Quantum in Mario Cart except for one. She's a little freckly girl who can barely play the theme from Harry Potter on the piano but somehow is able to glide around every corner of even the hardest race tracks effortlessly. I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, but she's my favorite kid there because she reminds me a little bit of your mother and also how I thought you might be, one day. Sweet and gracious upon victory. Seething and stormy upon defeat. Whenever I beat her, I see the gears in her head turning, analyzing where things went wrong. "I like losing," she says grudgingly. "Because that means it was a challenge and I had to try my hardest." To hedge against future defeats, I see her sneaking off into the game room at odd hours of the day to practice. Fortunately for me, all of the Quantum parents have confused my dedication to smiting their kids at video games with "being good with children" or something to that effect.
"It's so great that you spend time with the kids to make them happy," they'll say, to which I reply: "Eat dust, Lidia! Oh, I mean... Hi Lidia's Mom. I do what I can for them in these difficult times..."
Sadly, we'll have to leave Sunday because parents who have come from further distances than your mother and I need a room to stay in. I'll miss the Quantum House.