This is another memory from my time in pediatric cardiology, and another favorite. You never know who is going to stand up when you go to the waiting room and call a patient’s name. In pediatrics, it’s not only the patient you get to meet, but also their families.
This time, when I called the name of the three-year-old girl, a tattooed, baseball cap and biker t-shirt wearing, mountain of a man stood up to greet me. He grinned, held up his finger to let me know he was the one, then went to get his daughter from a group of kids sharing crayons and coloring books from a table nearby.
When they got closer, she asked, “Are you gonna take my peectures?” I almost died. I love a genuine, true, southern accent and she was country as cornbread. He saw the look on my face and grinned again.
“She’s pretty cute, ain’t she?” he asked. I knew I’d hit the jackpot.
They weren’t new to cardiology. She had had three open heart surgeries already, so they knew the drill. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t met her already, and I was impressed with how good he was with her and how calm they both were. As I was getting the images for the cardiologist, the dad was looking at the screen.
“Whew, it looks so much different than that first one.” I looked at him and nodded.
“Dang, she looks so much different than the first time I saw her.” He looked at the patient and they smiled at each other.
“Tell her daddy, ‘bout how little I was.” She said, still smiling.
“It is a good story.” He said.
“I love a good story.” I said.
Then he went on to tell me one of the best stories I’ve ever heard.
He and his wife had decided to become foster parents pretty quick after they got married, knowing that they couldn’t have kids of their own. They didn’t think they would adopt but give lots of different kids a family while their biological families were getting their lives together.
The week they’d finished all the classes, home inspections, etc., they got a call from a lady named Ms. Allen—who they assumed was from social services, regarding a baby born with a complex heart defect. The baby had been left at the hospital.
They took all the information, talked it over and decided to at least visit the hospital. Not sure if they were going to bring the baby home—they were young, brand new to the system—and a new-born baby with the mother of all heart defects, wasn’t what they’d had been planning on when they decided to foster. But they couldn’t stand to think of her there without any one to hold her other than the nurses who had so many babies to take care of. So their plan was to visit, see if they could be temporary fosters until she was assigned her real ones.
When they got to the hospital all the information was correct, they got permission and met the baby. They fell in love. He said that when they looked at her that very first time, they knew that they would take her home when and if she was able. He said it only took five minutes of standing beside the basinet she was lying in to change their entire way of thinking.
Things settled down after the first couple of days and they thought of the phone call. They wanted to thank Ms. Allen. They asked the social worker who she was, but she’d never heard of her.
They thought they’d gotten confused with all the excitement and Ms. Allen was with the hospital. They asked around, but no one there had called, and no one knew anyone named Ms. Allen.
He’s convinced that Ms. Allen was his daughter’s guardian angel. “I wish my wife was here, she can tell it so much better than me.” He said.
Now three years later, and legally adopted he says he still get chill bumps when he tells the story.
He reached over to straighten the bow in the little girl’s hair and I realized the tattoo on his forearm was of a picture of an anatomically correct heart with three big stitches to signify the three open heart surgeries she’s had so far.
I still get chill bumps when I think of the story and the way he and his daughter looked at each other.
Do you believe in guardian angels?