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Sunday, January 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Paul and Jane Wilkins: Thank you, Sacred Heart, for keeping our family whole

Iris Wilkins, 7, pushes a tub with her sisters Rose, 6, left, and Camille, 17 months. (Courtesy photo)
Iris Wilkins, 7, pushes a tub with her sisters Rose, 6, left, and Camille, 17 months. (Courtesy photo)

Cynthia Baker has stitched over 372 quilts for kids admitted to Spokane’s, Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. I know because our 5-month-old daughter Camille received the 372nd on Christmas Eve of last year.

My wife, three daughters (6, 5 and 5 months at the time) and I had traveled from our home in Washington, D.C., to spend Christmas with my mother in Spokane. Camille seemed to have a bad cold, but over several days her condition deteriorated to the point she could no longer swallow and had trouble breathing. Camille was diagnosed with infant botulism, a potentially fatal disease that annually affects fewer than 100 babies each year in the United States.

Living in Washington, D.C., I have thought a lot about how easily things tear. The battering of our democracy – the free press, an independent justice system and Americans’ belief that our democracy – “the last best hope of Earth” – seems to be fraying.

But, our personal rending over the last year taught me something much different. Ours is a nation of menders. Throughout our stay in Spokane, doctors, nurses, volunteers and strangers took time away from their families over the holidays to help hold our family together.

There were the truly amazing women and men who work at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. There was Dr. Tarango, the ER doctor who not only astoundingly diagnosed Camille with infant botulism within three minutes of seeing her, but also delivered us chocolate chip cookies on Christmas that she had baked herself.

There was Erin, the pediatric intensive care unit nurse, who when my wife couldn’t sleep on Christmas night said “well if you can’t sleep, let’s chat!” There was Pastor Donna, who calmly baptized Camille when we weren’t sure if Camille would make it. For over three weeks, every shift change brought someone of skill and compassion to Camille’s door.

There were the countless, faceless, kind and holy volunteers who collected and delivered Radio Flyer wagons loaded with toys to every kid in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on Christmas Eve. There was Joann, the volunteer tutor, who helped the older girls who missed several weeks of school.

There was Rabah, an immigrant, who picked my older daughters and me up in his Uber to rush us to the hospital one evening when Camille seemed to take a turn in the wrong direction. Rabah made what could have been an anxious ride for a confused 5- and 6-year-old into a pocket of joy with his club music and disco lights, which had my daughters bouncing in their seats.

There was Dylan, Jaime, Cathy, Becky and Robyn. People we barely knew who volunteered to sit with Camille for a few hours in the evening so my wife and I could enjoy a dinner with our older girls.

Almost a year later, Camille is a happy and healthy 17-month-old. She laughs, she pulls the clean silverware out of the dishwasher and leaves it all over the floor, she steals her big sisters’ Legos and she crawls into our laps with “The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss to have us read it again and again with her blanket from the Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital wrapped around her.

Our gratitude to the amazing people who make up Sacred Heart and our new Spokane friends that we made along the journey is bottomless and eternal. Our family is whole. Thank you, Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, and thank you, Spokane.

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