Summer of Lessons

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As I walked along the first corridor of “The Phoenix Children’s Hospital,” I couldn’t help but take a whiff of the putrid smell of sterilizing alcohol and medicine. The aroma was quite overwhelming along with my other many surroundings; every which way I turned there were young children clinging to their parents or nurses sides. In the beginning I would have never guessed the affects this place would have on me.

One morning while I was accompanying my mom to the doctor’s office we began talking about community service and the benefits of doing good for others and yourself. Neither of us were really big on volunteering, so the experience was going to be new for us both. We decided to make a pact that we would complete 100 service hours over the course of a summer. Where we were going to volunteer? Truth be told, neither of us had any ideas. So, I went home that night and began to research different ways to help others for community service. My results ranged from feeding the homeless to helping out animal shelters. There were so many different options to choose from. When I got ready for bed later that night, I couldn’t help but ponder all the different ideas and which one I would enjoy the most.
The following morning rolled around and it was time to get ready for school. With thoughts of my big project ahead of me I slowly climbed out of bed and began my morning routine. When I headed downstairs for breakfast my mother greeted me excitedly in the kitchen and questioned me on whether or not I had decided where I was going to volunteer. We sat down at the table and discussed numerous options we both had learned about the previous night. My mom decided she wanted to work with the homeless but I was still at a loss when it came to what I wanted to do. With summer approaching rapidly I was going to have to make a decision quickly. After devouring the delicious breakfast my mom had prepared, I started my journey to school. Along the way, I passed an elementary school playground occupying hundreds of small children. As I observed the youth playing, subconsciously a small grin took form on my face. I loved listening to the high pitch squeals of laughter and the innocence that was still bestowed upon them. It was at that moment I knew what I wanted to do.
School seemed to drag on forever that day. I was so eager to rush home to tell my mom what I wanted to spend my hours doing. Little did I know, events at home were taking a turn for the worst. When the final school bell rang for the day and we were dismissed I set out on my expedition back home. As soon I walked in the front door there was an eerie feeling lingering in the house. Everything was just a little too silent. I bellowed my mother’s name and only the tick tock of the clocks answered my call. As I began shambling up the stairs I listened attentively. I then heard a soft sob behind my mother’s bedroom door. I cautiously twisted the door’s handle and entered the room quietly. On the bed sat my mother and her girlfriend Carrie. When I noticed Carrie’s swollen tomato eyes and the small rivers gliding down her cheeks, I finally asked my mom what was the matter. My mom then escorted me into another room. She confided in me that Carrie was not well. She had just received the disturbing results from her biopsy appointment earlier that week. The results displayed a minor tumor in her left breast. I was astounded. Emotions exploded through me like fireworks on the fourth of July. I then learned Carrie was scheduled for an operation the following week. With my new knowledge of Carrie’s affliction and my previous decision of wanting to volunteer with Children, I combined the two circumstances and came up with a new found focus and desire to help. I wanted to spend my time with children who were struggling to survive.
I located my mother’s computer at once and initiated my search to locate a hospital to volunteer. I researched multiple hospitals and decided that “The Phoenix Children’s Hospital” in Phoenix, Arizona was the place for me.
I submitted an application at once. To my amazement I was called in for an interview in a matter of weeks. The lady who interviewed me was intimidating to me but comforting in an odd way. She told me I had gotten the position I wanted. I was going to be working in the play room with the children. I planned to begin my internship as soon as possible.
My first week I was welcomed with shining smiles and happy hellos. I was introduced to all of the staff and peers who I would be working with side by side. They were all extremely friendly and helped me adjust to my new surroundings. The room was many different colors like green, red, and yellow. The room had plenty of games to play. There were board games like “Chutes and ladders” and “Candy Land”. There were also a countless amount of puzzles to choose from with themes like “Looney Tunes” and “Rug Rats”. My favorite part of the week was when I got to meet all the children who would play in the recreational room. Despite each of their illnesses every child greeted me warmly and offered me a gracious grin. Happiness fled through me as I imagined my days ahead at the hospital.
Every day I looked forward to getting up and heading to the hospital to interact with my new friends. My schedule was different each day based on what the kids wanted to play or talk about. Growing more and more attached, I became familiar with each child’s illness. Understanding each of their conditions, it was a miracle to me that they could walk around so happy and find so much good in their life regardless of their circumstances. Seeing each of these young children so determined to fight for their lives encouraged me to feel blessed that I was a healthy adolescent and there were people going through much worse situations then I could imagine.
To my surprise my summer ended abruptly. I came home one evening from the hospital to find out I was going to be spending the remaining month of my summer in San Diego, California. I was excited to be able to go visit my grandma who resided there but at the same time I was disappointed that I was going to have to leave my new buddies at the hospital. I dreaded the day that was soon approaching, I was going to have to say goodbye to everyone I had just met. Knowing that I was soon to be leaving I embraced each day with the children. Seeing their bubbly, bright, beautiful faces and personality made my heart descend like the sun in the evenings.
Inevitably, the day I had been resisting finally came. I had to say goodbye to everyone, although the hardest goodbye was the children. As each child approached me with arms in the air for a final hug tragic tears trickled down my face. In the beginning the tears were light but soon became flowing heavy like a stream going downhill. As the last little girl walked up to me I had a sudden memory of my first day starting at the hospital. I couldn’t believe I would be leaving so soon. I had grown so attached to that hospital. It was a sad thought to think I would be on a plane in a couple of hours to be gone for the rest of the summer. After saying my goodbyes, I left the hospital with a feeling sadness in my heart.
When I got home that night my bags were packed ready to leave to the airport. Accompanying me was Carrie, who had just completed Chemotherapy. We were flying out together. She had told me as we were approaching security how afraid she was for her life but thankful for each day she is alive. I then thought of all my little friends at the hospital and assured her that if those small children could fight illnesses and still walk around happily, anything was possible. She was going to fight breast cancer and come out alive, healthy and happy.
Overall, the hospital left me with life long lessons. The summer I spent with the children at “The Phoenix Children’s Hospital” shall live with me forever.





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