I Should Have Closed The Door

hospital-door“I didn’t mean to make her cry,” I said.

“I know,” God insisted, but then He turned to a gentler tone. “Walk me through it.”

It was our first Diabetes “clinic” at the hospital with the various members of the pediatric endocrinology team assigned to us. It was a lengthy appointment set aside to ask and be asked questions, to be in dialogue regarding the stratagem for waging a more precise and steady war against my daughter’s autoimmune disease—an enemy whose only purpose is to make her seven-year-old body try to kill itself.

Evelyn was tapping and dragging on the iPad screen—changing the prince’s crowns and the colors of the princess’ dress, switching back and forth between a wintery kingdom and a reign of summertime glow—all the while, the doctor and I took to serious things with careful tones. But there was one thing that I wanted to ask that I could not gild. The question that was already formed, and had been for some time, was for Evelyn’s good, but not her ears, and so I asked the doctor for a private moment outside in the hallway.

I should have closed the door behind us.

“While I know what this disease is and how it works,” I began, “there’s a lot I don’t know.”

“That’s why you have us,” she said comfortingly.

“I have to ask,” I continued in a voice that was just a little more than a whisper, “is it in any way possible for me to give her my pancreas, or the portion that she needs, so that I can be the one doing this instead of her?”

The doctor gave a kindly smile, one that at least implied familiarity with the request.

“The endocrine system is a very complicated thing,” she said. “The pancreas does a lot more than dole out insulin. You’d die without your pancreas. And even though there have been pancreas transplants, quite often the resulting condition and the regiment of care is far worse than Evelyn’s current condition with Type 1 Diabetes.”

“But I would die for her,” I said. “I would do anything to take this away, if there was ever a chance for her to be rid of this thing.”

“I know, but there isn’t. At least not yet.” She attempted to distract me by describing the latest advances in Diabetes treatment as well as suggested the possibility of near-future gadgets that would change the field, but I interrupted her.

“I just want to be clear, right here in the first clinic with all of you… I will do anything—anything—to take this away from her.”

The doctor was the first to notice Evelyn’s little blue eye spying just below the hinge through the space between the door and its frame. Having been discovered, she slipped back to her chair and resumed her iPad morsing. But there was no hiding her quivering lip and the rose of her cheeks. She was trying her hardest not to cry.

Before I could even stretch out my arms to her, she curled over the iPad in her hands and sobbed, “I don’t want you to have Diabetes.” I scooped her up and held her close. “And I don’t want you to die,” she stuttered through a sniffling sorrow. I could feel her tiny fingers digging into my shoulders.

“Oh, honey,” I said and worked to keep my own tears hidden, “I love you so much. And I will do anything to help you. That’s all I was saying to the doctor, that I’d do anything for you, to make you better.”

For Evelyn, the conversation was already over. She brought it to an end with a forthrightness that is rare of any adult. She took hold of the sides of my face and leaned her little forehead against mine, her face still splotched with sadness. “I don’t want you to have Diabetes,” she said so very clearly.

And then she started to laugh. I don’t know why. She just did. I wonder if it was because that’s what kids do when they get so close to your face that your two eyes become blurred into one. For a moment, you look like a cyclops. It’s silly. Or maybe it was a moment of maneuvering for a little one who just gave you her heart to also hand over a little bit of her joy, too. Because you need it. And she wants you to have it. And she’d do anything for you just as you’d do anything for her. To prove that both would have lost so much if the other were suddenly gone—even by way of self-sacrifice.

“I love this little girl,” I said and turned back to see God’s expression.

“I know,” He answered. “Now, don’t forget what she taught you today.”

“I won’t.”