“I lub you!” echoes across the room in the shrill tones of a two-year-old boy, followed by a smacking noise as he brings his hand to his pursed lips and blows a kiss, just like we’ve taught him. He flashes a cheeky grin as if he knows exactly what he’s saying and looks up at us through mischievous eyes. In no time flat he’s up and off to his next adventure, whether it’s whacking someone in the head with a balloon that has been blown up just for him, or trying to push me in a rolling chair to some other random part of the room, or running to tell his mother that someone he doesn't know is taking water from their “home” (the ward).
I’ve started calling him the “Petit prince” or little prince, and somebody went ahead and made him his own little paper crown the other day, which I’m sure will be ripped into pieces by the end of the day. He doesn’t speak any english or french, other than what we’ve taught him to say, but he will jabber away in Susu gesturing through the whole thing and stamp his little feet if we don’t understand what he wants. He’s learning to use gestures and actions more often to get his point across, like the other day when the nurse took his book away for being rough with it, and he came to me and pointed at her. He kept saying.... something... frustrated and pointing at her as if I was supposed to take care of his problem. Finally he grabbed my finger and pulled me towards her, pointing at the book and looking back and forth between her and I. He got his point across, now how were we to explain the discipline?
His mother is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met, and she loves every one of us that works on the ward. I get a daily hug and kiss on the cheek as I arrive and questions (in french) on how I’m doing with a report on how her son is doing. Her french is at about the same level as mine, and so while we can talk, it never gets to a very deep level. She loves her son fiercely, even if she has asked some of the nurses if they want to take him home with them since he is so hard to control. She is constantly thanking us for everything we’ve done. And no matter how I explain who I am, she is convinced I’m the doctor in charge of her son’s care. When we change his dressings, he screams and calls us evil people, and afterwards she comes and kisses us on the cheeks to thank us for helping him.
Most days when she sees me, his mother will ask her little boy if he loves me. He will either say yes or no, depending on his mood and whether I’ve had to reprimand him already that morning for throwing things at people or running away with the scissors from the desk. Without fail, though, when I hold out my hand and ask him to come for a walk with me, he happily joins me on an adventure to stop by another ward or visit one of the hospital offices as I’m running my daily errands. And one day after giving him scrap paper that he proceeded to scribble all over and fill with holes, he went to his mother and accused me of “ruining” it. So she came and told me, and got into a boxing pose, hopping around like a child and pretending she was going to beat me up for messing with her child’s paper. Laughing and laughing through the whole thing.
The two of them bring an element of fun and joy to the ward, as the little prince slowly heals. They’ve blessed me so much, and make me eager to be on the ward and greet them every day. Today I slipped down to say "hello" and he happily greeted me and waved me over, so he could carefully apply about 8 smiley face stickers to my arms and face. I can't get enough of his sweetness some days! And yet, I know they have family at home, and I know this is not where they belong. It’s a fine line between enjoying the presence of our patients and their family, and rejoicing in their ability to go home healed. As he continues to heal, a small part of me is already mourning the fact that the goodbyes will come soon. I pray that their time with us will plant seeds, in them, their family, their homes. That truth and love would take root in their hearts. That he would grow into a man as loving and kind as his mother.