As I’ve learned during my now eleven months of being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it is so much better being seen under the Pediatrics side of the hospital rather than the adult side. However, in June of 2015 I was a nineteen year old young-adult who was in no mood to interact with anyone, especially when the word pediatric was involved. As I frequently reminded people: I was in a hospital, not summer camp; I wasn’t there to make friends.
Days passed in my little room on floor eleven, and by this time I was a little more than halfway done with my first round of chemotherapy. 5 days down, 5 more to go (of chemo, that is. There was still plenty of waiting ahead of me). At this point, I think I’d gotten to the shittiest part of that round: the nausea was basically an every night thing, I was committed to an on-and-off relationship with a body temperature of 100.3 (the official start of a fever according to Hopkins’ policy), and the sores in my mouth had escalated from thrush to full-blown mucositis. The mucositis and the nausea I could handle, as awfully annoying and dreadful as they were, because there was medicine to help combat these side effects (blog post on that later). The fevers, however, were on a different plane of awful because with the fevers came the need for cultures.
Although it was explained very thoroughly before we began treatment that a common side effect of chemotherapy is the occurrence of fevers, any time I got a fever a culture was needed to test my blood to tell whether or not this was in fact just a side effect or if I actually had an infection. For me personally, 9.8 times out of 10 my fever was just a side effect, but cultures are still called for. Ok, I thought, it’s fine they’ll just draw my blood out of my PICC line like they do everyday anyway, it’ll be quick, easy, and painless.
The blood they needed to use for cultures had to be untainted by whatever medicine was flowing through my PICC line, so I had to be stuck peripherally each and every time. It didn’t matter when the fever came on, the culture team would be called anyway and you had to wait for them to get around to you. 12:00 AM, 1:45 AM, 3:20 AM, 4:00 AM – my door was always (involuntarily) open for whenever they were available to take my precious, cancer-infested blood. And, of course, if they’re sticking you with a needle they need to be able to see what they’re doing, so on come the blinding fluorescent lights (once or twice without any warning). There was nothing quick about it either. After many, many fevers and cultures taken, my veins (I wish I were joking) basically became traumatized by all the poking and prodding and started shrinking and sinking lower in my body so that it was nearly impossible for them to find a good place to draw blood. So now, I can pretty much tell you anywhere on your body that could be used for an IV or to draw blood, because they’ve all been done to me at some point.
So, once again, I was being deprived of my treasured sleep by medical professionals, and it was hell. I was not a happy camper, which made me a bear most days in return.
I honestly feel bad for the poor Child Life Specialist, Kyra, because she definitely did her job well and tried very hard to get me to open up and participate, but I just wasn’t having it that first month. I was perfectly content watching endless marathons of Friends, Law & Order: SVU, and even Keeping Up with the Kardashians and all its special spinoffs (my mom and I have spent so much time keeping up with our favorite bunch that we now refer to them as ‘our family’), but my mom wasn’t having it. She wanted me to be more involved with life on Bloomberg 11 South besides just walking laps. This involvement, in her mind, included partaking in the many activities the Children’s Hospital had to offer, and it just so happens that when the first opportunity presented itself to her, it came gift wrapped in a bright blue bow with a tag screaming ‘BINGO.’
Bingo both literally and figuratively.
Now, if I thought that I could endure a quick game of bingo and be in and out in no time at all, I was gravely mistaken. On principle, I absolutely hate playing bingo. I despise it, actually. It’s boring, and I’ve never won a single bingo game in my life. Not to mention the fact that, when I was younger, I always ended up eating too many of the m&m’s, mini marshmallows, and other tiny treats my teachers chose to use as markers. C’est la vie. This bingo game, however, was a whole different kind of beast. For starters, it was conducted in the children’s hospital’s television studio and broadcasted over their private channel. Children are able to sit in the studio (a tiny 4″x4″ box) to play bingo, or can choose to play from the comfort of their own room. Obviously, I chose my room (HAH, a loophole – no socializing for me).
Bingo is offered once a week from 2-4 P.M., for the entire children’s hospital, and, of course, when it comes to children you have to make them feel special. I didn’t believe that I would be playing bingo for two whole hours that day (it’s just the allotted time they’re given, I thought), but apparently it was just hopeful thinking on my part. My bingo game from hell went like this:
- Bingo starts each week with a shout out and personal hello to each and every child that has chosen to play that day.
(I’m looking at you, Jason on floor 6. You too, Kimberly on the twelfth floor)
2. The prizes are presented. Because the majority of bingo players are playing from their room somewhere else in the hospital and not in the T.V. studio, all of the prizes have to be shown and described to the viewers one by one. And we’re not talking five or ten prizes for kids to fight to the death over. No, there’s three tables full of prizes for all ages that take up majority of the space in the tiny studio. This goes on for about half an hour.
“Next we have a plush, Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. It’s about a foot tall, and it’s sooo soft, perfect for ages six months and up. Now, here’s a pack of hot wheels race cars. There’s some cool colors here! Great for ages three and up!”
3. Finally, it’s time to play bingo. The games played in the hospital are all (yep, you guessed it) hospital themed. When you sign up to play, you’re given a laminated bingo card with pictures of needles, crutches, band aids, etc. But, no markers. So you get creative with how you cross out the items called.
4. “Hello! This is bingo!” Whenever a child won, they would have to “call bingo” by literally calling down to the T.V. studio with their in-room phone. However, there was no one manning the phones to monitor these calls, so the bingo game would stop so that the bingo caller could verify the items selected and, if the kid got it right, go to the prize table and set aside the prize that they wanted. On top of this, there were no real “cut offs” to how many people could win a game, so you would sit in your room and watch as they went through three to four different kids who had all called at the same exact time. And while they did that, more kids called with bingo so you would have to wait some more.
All in all, we got through a whopping grand total of two games in the hour and a half left after announcing the prizes. Keeping true to my record, I didn’t win either of them. Instead, I lost two hours of my day that I could have spent with my favorite sitcom friends, my favorite dedicated detectives who investigate vicious felonies (dun dun), or my favorite Hollywood fam squad. Needless to say, I never played another round of bingo while in the hospital, however I did still walk away with a prize. Turns out, as long as you play you still get something, but by the time they made it all the way up to me on the eleventh floor all that remained was a small bottle of green, sparkly nail polish.
The only thing green about me was my envy over the Disney toys I’d missed out on.