Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. Arnold GlasowWhen Liseanne was six she was diagnosed with a spinal condition. It was a label that soothed my aching heart and questing mind to find an answer to the excruciating back pain from which she suffered. It didn't make her, or me, feel better, but it at least gave us a starting point for finding ways to relieve her pain.
She started physio -- "That hurts mummy" was a cry I came to loathe as I sat on the floor with her doing her stretches. The physio sessions weren't bad. they were done in a pool and the coach always made it fun. It also gave her a compassionate perspective.
There was a young girl, slightly older than Liseanne, who was also in the class who had serious arthritis. For her, the simple motion of bending over was a laborious exercise fraught with pain. Liseanne used to stand beside this young girl and help her bend and stretch. It was awesome to watch these two young girls connect through their pain in compassion and, as is always the case with Liseanne, humour. She would make a funny comment and the girl would laugh and then they'd bend. I think Liseanne figured out that if you gotta do something and it hurts but you still gotta do it, you may as well laugh. And laugh she did.
She didn't laugh very much with her MRIs. Every few months we'd arrive at the Radiology section in the basement of the hospital where she was scheduled for her MRI and she would sigh and ask, "I can have ice cream after this, right?"
She didn't like the MRI. I couldn't blame her -- it was scary to many adults let alone a small child. But, like or dislike, she still needed to do it and all I could do was go with her, stand at her feet and hold them as she lay, absolutely still, in the long white chamber of the machine as the pings knocked around her head and frightened her.
I wanted to teach her about courage. About her strength and power. I didn't want her to believe she was 'sick'. I wanted her to know, she had the power to look at herself as whole because, she was (and is) whole.
One day, I created a story for her about a powerful stuffed animal whose courage was legendary. He was a giving animal and whomever carried him also carried his courage -- and with his courage in the child's arms, the child could do anything.
Liseanne fell in love with the idea that a stuffy could be her badge of courage and so we went to a toy store and searched the aisles for the perfect Courage Talisman.
It took a couple of hours. Sometimes, I believe she liked to see just how far she could take me on her quest to test the boundaries of my patience! :)
This day, she sat on the floor of the toy store aisle and pointed to a spot on the shelf where a bear or tiger or some other creature sat. I picked it up and passed it down to her. Bears and alligators. Cats and dogs. Elephants and penguins. Zebras and giraffes. Tigers and lions. Big ones. Little ones. Miniatures. Child-size. She tried them all.
She sat on the floor held the animal in her arms, rocked it, stroked it. "Are you courageous?" she asked each one before getting up to walk up and down the aisle, cuddling the animal against her heart, checking to see if its courage fit.
It was the lion who finally touched her heart. Golden coloured, soft and cuddly, he had a mane of lighter yellow, soft eyes and body. He wasn't very big. Fit against her chest and didn't reach her waist. But he was fearless. Mighty. Courageous.
"I'll call him Grrr," she exclaimed.
Grrr went everywhere with her, including the MRI chamber where, because he had no metal parts his presence was always welcome.
And through it all, I stood at her feet, helpless to stop the pounding noise within the chamber. Helpless to change the pain in her back.
Yesterday morning, I chatted with Lele (her nickname since childhood) and she told me the outcome of her hospital experience. It was afternoon in Vlissingen and she was home. A woman from the International Student's office had picked her up and driven her from Middleburg where the hospital is located back to her apartment. the University, both there and here have been amazing.
The outcome -- There were abnormalities on her EEG. Signs of possible epilepsy. She can't drive for three months but is okay to fly. She's planning on continuing her stay in Europe. She's got two and a half months of travel planned and doesn't want to change any of it.
I wouldn't either.
She is okay. Shaken, but not stirred up. She's handling it all with the grace and equanimity that is her nature.
I have a new nickname, she said.
Oh? What's that?
Well, you know how all my friends call me 'Sleezy Leezy'. They're now calling me, 'Seezy Leezy'. and she laughed.
Funny, I replied. Very funny.
On Monday, she goes back to the hospital for another EEG where, after 24 hours without sleep, they will attempt to induce a seizure.
Don't you have your MRI on Monday, I asked.
They did it today, she told me. She paused. I wish you had been there to hold my feet.
I wish I had been too. I replied.
She is okay. It may not be the outcome she was hoping for -- which would have been more along the lines of 'a freak event with no explanation but hey! freaky things happen', but, she has above all else, her amazing spirit, her optimism and the courage of a lion named Grrr. And, she has her laughter and lightness of being that lights up the world.