Just so you know...Connections Matter
Thirty-two years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful little boy who, while receiving his two-month baby check, was diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot, a heart defect requiring him to undergo immediate open-heart surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I was able to navigate the hospital ins and outs pretty well considering I stayed at Andrew’s bedside for his two-and-a-half-month recovery stint. Over that time, I got to know his sweet roommate. We shared a large room with one other infant; one of whom shared the same name, Andrew. This Andrew suffered from a less severe condition but there was one distinct difference between the two that is too important not to share.
During those months I saw the other Andrew’s parents three times, maybe. Dad was a soldier in the United States Army and Mom stayed at home to care for their toddler. When visiting, they never stayed too long and not one person from that family ever stayed the night. I tried to understand this, to empathize. Caring for a toddler and only having one vehicle made visiting the hospital nearly impossible. They lived roughly an hour away and the mother found it quite challenging to drive in the city. I know it was a hardship for them.
During Andrew’s hospitalization, I learned from the staff that I could not hold or touch another patient, although I longed to hold the other Andrew while my Andrew slept. He desperately needed some love and attention. I did manage to lean over his crib and chat with him every chance I got, but no holding, touching, loving on him occurred while I was there. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been such a rule-follower.
Mid-October, Andrew was released from the hospital, nearly two and a half months after his surgery. The other little Andrew never checked out. With great sadness I learned he had died a few weeks later. It was a devastating blow! How could this be? I reflected for weeks, wondering what had gone wrong, but I knew the answer. I knew the answer without a doubt. That sweet baby died from a lack of love. He experienced limited interactions from humans, little touching or talking or holding - few smiles and rare talks. He failed to experience the joy of the human experience. I could go on and on about this sad occurrence, but today I’m stressing this point:
We, all humans, weren’t made to be isolated, working in cubicles, alone with non-human stuff with which to interact. We all were meant to play, act, manipulate, communicate, touch, hug, hold and most especially LOVE one another.
The need to connect is essential, now and in years to come. You see, I know the outcome when connections don't exist. Now you know, too.