Monday, March 08, 2010


The hospital equipment in her room surrounds her like a safety net or a fortification. She sits in her bed at home wearing a nasal cannula and a face mask, the continuous flow of oxygen and periodic puffs of extra O2 streaming from clear tubes like invisible life lines.

A strange phenomenon surrounds Wendy -- she never seems to change. Four years have passed so quickly, and when I first met Wendy in the winter of my first year in medical school, she was 14 and recovering from a bone marrow transplant. She is my PedPal, and I have followed her through numerous hospitalizations. This fall, the medical team determined that Wendy would not be a good candidate for a lung transplant, and she went home with arrangements for home hospice.

When I saw Wendy yesterday at home, she had not changed. Her days are simple -- sleeping 12 hours per day, occasional trips to the bathroom, continuous oxygen (12 L), she is breathing relatively comfortably and experiencing no pain. The static nature of her routine belies a well-hidden unrest; she continuously roams the internet and watches anime from her bed. Her round cheeks-- vestige of prednisone -- has not changed much in the last few years, and she has always been extremely shy. I have always struggled to understand Wendy's development as a person caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood -- she fell ill at the age of 12 and has not attended much school since then, she loves Hannah Montana, and she recently celebrated her 17th birthday.

Like a fairy or a sprite, she appears ageless, frozen in time, forever innocent and forever young. What hurts the most is the realization that this illusion of eternal youth is cruel. As I pondered all of the things that Wendy might not have the opportunity to do, it surprised me to realize that of all the missed opportunities, it pained me the most to realize that Wendy might never have the chance to grow up and meet someone and fall in love.