What Coming Home Means to Me

By Kyla Pokorny, patient at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

10404250_696399580489619_3879951187894223074_nWhen I think #cominghome, two things come to mind. Going “home” to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and going home to my apartment.

It started on March 28, 2011. I was thirteen when my life came crashing down on me. I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma bone cancer. The surgery to remove my tumor would take my arm’s range of motion, and leave it with less than half of what it had before.

During that year, I spent countless days and overnights at the hospital receiving intense chemotherapy treatment and recovering from severe side effects. And after a year of treatment, I was given every reason to believe that I had won the battle, but in July of 2013, fifteen months after successfully ending my chemotherapy treatments, half of my face went numb and an MRI revealed two new masses inside my head. My biggest nightmare had transformed into reality. The cancer had reoccurred and I would undergo 31 radiation treatments and 19 more months of chemotherapy.

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center turned into more than just my treatment facility. After spending so much time there, it became my home away from home.

From walking into radiology and finding Art, in his skull shirt, who can always find a way to cheer me up….to visiting Dr. Salazar’s office in cardiology and seeing the huge animal wall stickers …(just looking at those always help take away some anxiousness, as do the incredibly friendly staff!)…

… to heading down to the One World Café and having the best lady cook serve me food with a gigantic smile across her face…to entering the 5th floor clinic and being greeted by the sounds and smiles of giggling children walking by with their poles and IV bags…

This hospital just feels like home.

Do I wish I never had to go through this experience? Yes. But would I trade it for the world? Absolutely not. Through my experiences, I have lost many things but I have also gained many things. I have learned that the threat of death brings you so much closer to life and I have also learned lessons that could take others their whole lives to learn. Most importantly, I have met a selfless community of caregivers who devote their time to taking care of all of the sick children in our community and who make this hospital “home”. Yes, that is their job, but they do it with elegance and give to us kids, out of the genuineness of their hearts and expect nothing in return. They are what makes this hospital run like no other one could.

How lucky am I to have two places to come home! Thanks Connecticut Children’s from the bottom of my heart!! #cominghome

“She came from my heart, not my belly…”

By Christine Finck, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Connecticut Children’s

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It was an ordinary snowy February day at work for me and when I went to sleep, I had no idea that this night would change my life forever.

The call came at around 11pm – I wiped the sleep from my eyes and listened to the neonatal intensivist tell me about a premature baby being born at another hospital with gastroschisis- this is a condition where all the intestines are outside the body. I thanked him and told him I would be there shortly to meet the little girl as she arrived at our Children’s Hospital.

When I got to the unit, I was struck by the small peanut that greeted me. Despite having all her intestines not where they were supposed to be, she was feisty! Her bright blue eyes seemed to be smiling at me. Her young mom was still at the hospital and I talked with her over the phone and described what I needed to do. She told me her little girl’s name was Isabelle.

The first year of Isabelle’s life was extremely tough. She required many operations to help fix her intestines. She was on intravenous nutrition and fought many infections. I was her primary surgeon and I would take care of her every day. I would always end my visit by holding her tiny hand. One of the older NICU nurses commented to me “I think you are going to take this one home”. I remember being shocked by that comment, but I have learned to never question a NICU nurse’s intuition. Especially now, after I know how the events unfolded!

When it came time to let Isabelle go home just before her 1st birthday, she was still on IV nutrition and taking nothing by mouth.  She had a feeding tube in her stomach, a big IV line under her collar bone, and a very large spirit. Her mom was very young and did not have any true, consistent support at home. She loved Isabelle and made an effort to take care of her. However, after 2 nights, she brought her to my office. I remember vividly how her face turned red, and she shyly stated that she just could not keep her. There was no family that could help. Right then and there I blurted out- “I can take her”. I remember thinking, “Wow, who said that?!” And then her mom stated, “Oh that would be great. You know her the best”.

At that moment, I admitted Isabelle back into the hospital. I called my husband and asked if he would be willing to adopt a little girl. He didn’t even hesitate when he answered “yes”.  The next few weeks were a blur- adoption agencies, department of children and family visits to my house, lawyers- but we were able to pull it all together and bring Isabelle home on Valentine’s Day. My husband, sister, brother in law, mom and dad all proudly walked into the hospital with a stroller. Nurses and fellow physicians who helped care for Isabelle lined the hallway to Isabelle’s room. There was a collective cheer when we walked out of the hospital with her. The hospital had grown very fond of this little girl.

Needless to say, I taught my non-medical family how to care for central lines and feeding tubes. We worked with speech therapists and slowly introduced food to her. She was very lucky to have 2 little cousins and my sister who stayed for the first 3 weeks to help care for her. To this day, they have a special bond.

She has just turned 10, and I cannot remember a life without her. She has taught me so much about being a mother and a doctor. I often look up at the sky and thank god I was on call that night.