Breakfast with the walking wounded

This is one strange hotel. On the one hand, it’s luxurious – right i the middle of the city, close to sights and food and night-life. There’s a fridge filled with complimentary food and cupboards of the same. The kitchen is spacious, as is the lobby. The parking is free in a place that typically costs $15 a night just for your car. The rooms are all clean and well-stocked. A careful screening and referral process ensures that the riff raff stays out. Best of all, the whole thing is completely free!

The catch? Well, the place is only for sick children. Really sick. There are 17 families staying here, but I rarely see any of them. Several are cancer patients confined to their rooms. The girl at the table across from me has a tube coming out her nose. The two kids at the other table have masks on. Next to the milk in the communal fridge are a couple of IV bags. The boy we met last night in the common room is having his remaining eye fixed by the same surgeon our daughter is seeing. He was in good spirits then, wearing a t-shirt featuring a giant eyeball monster. Quite appropriate. Tonight, he’s nowhere to be seen. His mother says the anesthesia has been making him throw up all evening. Bummer. Our kids are having a blast in the playroom with a couple of Latino kids the same age. I chat with the mom. The difference is that my kids have their own kidneys. One of her sons is now running off one of hers – recently donated. They are both recovering.

This morning, three ophthalmologists huddle over our sedated daughter, checking her out with microscopes, cameras, prisms, pressure readers and ultrasounds. The conclusion? This eyeball sort of works. (We knew that.) That other one? It’s toast. Messing with it any more is just asking for trouble. Let’s just leave it. Believe it or not, that comes as a relief. No more being strung along by possibilities, no more decisions to make. It always was a long shot. Now it’s a no-shot.

Kids love band-aids. They need to show off their war wounds. We cover her bad eye with a hard shell patch she is proud of, even though nothing actually happened to it today.

In-between hospital visits, we’ve mostly been trying to keep the kids engaged. All six of us have visited several parks, hung out in the well-stocked play room, and ridden the hospital gondola and elevator up and down and up and down. Tomorrow, the zoo or perhaps the science center is on the list, after another exam. I did get a chance to hit Stumptown coffee. Such a floral espresso! Very nice, but I think I can say now that I prefer something thick and chocolatey in the long run – Bucer’s on a good day, or Zoka.

The Safeway is very different from the one at home. The produce area is large and immaculately stacked. The red meat section measures about 2 feet in length. Whole Foods is the competition here, not the BBQ butcher. The guy in front of me is talking to Siru on his iPhone 4GS while complaining to the cashier that he can’t use his food stamps because the EBT terminal is down. Maybe if I went on food stamps I could get a smart phone too. I try to take the little cart out of the store to haul my groceries to the van and I nearly have a spill as the magnetic wheel locks engage to prevent me from stealing the cart. I leave my retail-bound vehicle to the wolves and precariously haul my four bags a block away to my car, passing by a middle-aged homeless woman urinating on one of the bushes. Fortunately my driving instincts, though often faulty, get me back through the maze of hospitals and to our safe house where everyone is now asleep. At least they’ll have Cheerios tomorrow – a special request from the little girl.