(Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth)
The first time Deb drew Beau’s labs, she sat with him for a full 20 minutes before she even brought out a needle. She let him ask 158 questions and moved slow around the room while he wept. She told him a classic Grandma story that started the same old way they all do, “When I was a kid…”, but instead of ending with a “up hill both ways, kids these days.” feeling, it ended with “I was so scared too Beau, so, so scared (of her first blood draw) and now look! I do it for a living!” The story wasn’t a hallow one to gloss over his fear and create superficial connection, or an accolade of “bravery” in moments where his only feeling was pure terror- Both of which had become the norm after weeks in the hospital. It was a piece of her, the honest details of her own fear when she was his age, a piece of vulnerability set before him.
As I mentioned in part 1, I wasn’t there, but I know every detail of their first encounter which proves that she spoke to him. In his trauma of being back at the hospital, Deb cut through the fear and he listened, to every single word she said. She gave him all of the extra interventions that are normally reserved: A heat pack? Sure. A neo-natal needle? Sure. You want to bag up the filled viles yourself? Sure. You want to send them to the lab? Sure. Two colors of coban? Sure. The lab was his for the taking, she knew that this experience was sacred territory.
“I see you sweetie,” She communicated without saying the words, “You’re safe here.”
He retold to me the story of Deb when he got home that first day, and again and again during the car rides to weekly local labs that followed.
“Mom, you remember that Deb used to be afraid of needles?”
“Mom, isn’t it funny her name is the same as grandma?”
“Mom, did you know Deb says I am the most brave 7 year old she has ever met?”
Throughout the following 9 months, Beaudin would go to get his ‘local labs’ done more than 45 times and never again has anyone had to hold his body still.
Deb and Beau were fast friends, and the rest of our family was close behind. Within a couple visits, Deb was on a first name basis with our entire family. It seems likely to happen when you see someone every week for 9 months, and to some extent, you do get to know your entire care team in unique ways. But Deb was someone who Beau became excited to see. Yes, he adjusted to other medical appointments, stopped crying over clinic, became more confidant in his port access, but although absent from tears, I could still see the tension in his body. Like he knew what must be done and was ramping up for the battle.
But not with Deb. Not with local labs.
“Beau, when I pick you up today we gotta run and get local labs.”
“But Mom, local labs, those are with Deb right?”
“Right, over at UCHealth.”
“Oh, right, Deb will be there?”
“Yes, bub. I already called and made sure she’d be working.”
Moments pass, “Mom, when you tell me local labs, first I feel scared, and then I get that tummy feeling like when you say we are going to grandma’s. Like I can’t wait…. Mom isn’t that so weird.” Beau says nonchalantly, looking at the car window.
“No sweetie, that’s not weird.” I reply, holding back hot, weepy tears.
“But mom, it’s a hospital!” he says, sure that I didn’t hear the irony.
“Ya bub, but… it’s Deb.”
At one visit, I mentioned something to Beau, in front of Deb, about God making his body stronger every day. She made a small comment, the type you make if you aren’t sure that someone shares your faith and you don’t want to impose. I took the bait. “Are you a Christian?” I asked boldly. Not because I am that bold in my faith, but because I needed to know if she was bold in hers. “Yes,” she replied, “I pray over Beau every time I see his name on the docket. I pray God will allow me to be of use in his healing.”
I let out a long, slow exhale. I knew she was part of His plan, I knew it. She was an instrument in His hands, paving peace onto a really scary road. Once we knew we were all fellow sojuners on our way Home, we found more and more comfort with our visits to Deb.
Every visit she checked-in about Jude and Selah, a detail that seems simple, and yet put smoothe edges on the jagged pain balancing being the mom of a sick kid, with being the mom of siblings who aren’t sick. Eventually, we exchanged phone numbers and spent a couple of lovely afternoons at the park, allowing Beau to see that his care team could exist outside of the hospital setting. I was able to text her late at night to check on what time the lab closed when we needed to make an after-hours fever run, and she’d send me notes of encouragement after visits when I had all three kids and felt like a hot mess of chaos. She’d remind me that it is seeking peace in the chaos that makes me a good mom, not ensuring a lack of chaos.
Around the same time as Beaudin’s frontline treatment (read in depth about the phases of treatment here.) was coming to a close, we found out that Deb was moving to South Carolina. It was hard for Beau to find out that Deb was moving because she was such a comfort to him, to us. However, the first time we had to get labs without Deb, Beau wasn’t nervous.
“Does it feel different that Deb’s not going to be there Beau?” I asked as we drove-up to the hospital.
“No, not really. She told all her people what I need…actually mom…. I don’t feel scared at all anymore.”
I normally have the words, lots of the words, and don’t often find myself at a loss for them. But when it comes to Deb, and her role in Beau’s story, I feel like not even my finest words could do justice to the role she has played. Being the most humble being I know, she would point all of the accolades back to God. She believes herself to be an instrument of His hands, and proclaims it often. I love that about her.
You can read more about Beau and Deb’s story other places, but I’d say they do a surface level dip into a beautifully, deeper woven story.