A Day in the Life of a Hospital Birthday Celebration

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Atia awoke on her 3rd birthday with a horrific bloody nose. She was in the hospital and there was blood all over the sheets. It looked like a crime scene. Atia was justifiably upset, and I have to admit it scared me too. Since her counts were a bit low, the bleeding went on for some time. Heck of a way to start a birthday, but if something like that had to happen, it couldn’t have been in a better place.

The nurses quickly handled the situation. I was grateful for their expertise. The bed was stripped, Atia was changed and just like that we had a fresh start.

Everyone knew it was Atia’s birthday. She was treated to waffles with whipped cream AND a bowl of Fruit Loops. That’s the thing about hospitals – at least at Comer Children’s Hospital – the kids are treated like princesses (or princes). Anything and everything is done to distract them from the fact that they’re in the hospital, and if that means getting two types of breakfast food, so be it!

Atia and her lovely child life specialist

The Child Life Specialist stopped by with a balloon, a homemade sign and a present. Atia truly enjoyed all of it. Later, our friend stopped by with Sprinkles cupcakes. Atia couldn’t believe that she was given six whole cupcakes. Her eyes lit up! But after digging into one she quickly realized she wouldn’t be able to eat all of them, so I asked her if it’d be okay to share them with her nurses and doctors. She happily agreed!

Atia sharing her cupcakes with Dr. Morales LaMadrid who we love

Atia also received flowers, stuffed animals, and more balloons from family and friends. So many loving people reached out to us via Facebook, Twitter and email to send the most amazing messages and words of kindness. It was an incredible showing of support. I was deeply touched and all of it helped make the day a little better.

But I can’t lie, in between the good and happy moments, my heart ached. Another birthday celebration had been overshadowed by cancer. Who’s counting? I was. Cancer had ruined both Atia’s 2nd birthday and 3rd birthday. I know I should have been grateful that at least she’d had a 2nd and 3rd birthday, and I was, but I was also angry, very angry and sad. I yearned for a “normal” birthday – miles and miles and miles away from anything to do with a hospital, doctors or cancer!

Birth, 1st, 2nd (battling cancer) & 3rd (battling cancer) birthdays

The true highlight for me was when Steve, Asher and Nana showed up later that evening. Steve had been working all day and Nana had been taking care of Asher. Though she’d only intended to stay in town for the weekend, once again my mom came to my rescue by quickly shifting her plans after learning of Atia’s imminent hospital admission. She offered to watch Asher so we didn’t have to worry about him. Thank God. I swear my mom is an angel.

Daddy brought Atia’s most prized birthday present – from Auntie Sonia – a pink baby carriage with white polka dots. She’d been eyeing that stroller at the store and in magazines for weeks. It was her favorite gift!

Steve and I decided that if she couldn’t be home to play with it, we’d bring it to her. When we had a chance, the nurses would unhook Atia from the monitors and medication and let her walk, pushing her baby doll through the hospital’s hallways. She was still highly susceptible, so anytime she was outside of her isolation room, she had to wear a mask.

After daddy and the crew left, we settled in for the night. The next morning, Atia woke up soaked; she had peed the bed. She was being pumped with so many medications and fluids that she couldn’t keep up with the demands on her bladder. The girl who’d mastered potty training had a series of accidents, but can you blame her? Newbies shouldn’t be thrown curve balls like this.

We tried to make the best of things. We watched a ton of Yo Gabba Gabba and Thomas the Train DVDs (thanks to the library of videos the hospital has). And, we played in the lobby as much as we could, anything to get out of the room for a while. The nurses often stopped by to enjoy a spot of tea at Atia’s tea party. Her cat, Snowball, joined in sometimes too.

Atia sharing tea with one of her wonderful nurses

The next day we found out that we wouldn’t be going home yet. Her blood counts had gone down, which couldn’t be explained. She’d also had a slight fever the day before, so the combination meant a few more days in the hospital.

Even under the best circumstances, at a leading hospital, it gets lonely. Really, really lonely.

Our family picture on Atia’s 3rd birthday


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  • Very touching story of the joy Atia experienced on her birthday, despite being in a hospital. Hugs to you all on this difficult journey, and congratulations to Atia on being a 3 year old "big girl" now!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I'm happy to report that Atia is doing much better these days, though she's been through so much over the last 2.5 years. Her strength, courage and incredible resilience is inspirational and she's given her father and I the gift of perspective. She's definitely a "big girl" now. :)

  • In reply to Laura Lutarewych:

    Dear Laura, I have been reading about Atia's progress on your blog and am rooting for her. I see how inspiring she is, and I also see that she has a great team of family, friends and health professionals around her. You go Atia!

  • I hope she had a wonderful birthday despite being in the hospital, again. She is just too cute!!

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