The Dino That Made a Difference

Story 2

It’s hard to fully convey all the experiences and emotions we felt during Anna’s hospital stay and Lupus diagnosis. Looking back, it's even hard to remember what happened and in what order. But certain memories stick out, the really good ones and the really awful ones.

One of these good memories was when Anna made friends with the gift shop dinosaur during her stay at Sutter. We started visiting the gift shop because Anna was supposed to get up and walk. Her body was tired, she often had IV’s, and there was really no place to go. So we made the gift shop the destination. Daily, we’d make a trek. We became familiar with all the merchandise and in particular the large stuffed dinosaur that would eventually become hers. We’d adorn the dino with some gift shop accessory, look around the shop nervously waiting to be chided by the cashier, and quickly take a picture. It was silly, fun, and gave us something to do. It was something that took us out of ourselves and gave us a story to tell other than the icky one we were living. We shared our pictures on social media and soon, everyone knew about Anna and the dino.

After two weeks in the hospital, Anna went home. We took our last picture of the dino, right before the new year, and went happily on our way. One week later, Anna found herself back in the hospital, but this time without a gift shop. In addition to the lacking gift shop, her hospital room was an overflow unit. There was no actual door, just curtains, a tiny metal toilet that pulled out of a cupboard into the middle of the room, and worse lighting than an Old Navy dressing room. We affectionately called it the dungeon. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, it wasn’t a pleasant environment.

By this point Anna had gained 60lbs of fluid and wasn’t doing great. She had started chemotherapy but we were waiting for her kidneys to start responding. Although we were relieved to be back under hospital supervision we were understandably discouraged. As a heavy cloud formed over our heads a group of friends began to formulate a cheering-up plot. Within a few days, to Anna’s utter astonishment and delight, Anna and the gift-shop dino were reunited, and this time permanently. I’ve included a picture from dinosaur delivery day so you can witness for yourself the happiness on Anna’s face.

From that point on, the dinosaur was the mascot of our hospital lives. When we switched hospital rooms, she insisted on lugging that awkward beast through the hauls herself. Every doctor, nurse, and visitor commented on the illustrious dino. They often spooked themselves, thinking it was a person because he was so tall. Still nameless, many suggested names for the dino, Anna always diplomatically considering their offerings. He was the victim of many a dress-up time; hospital socks, winter hats, bath robes, tissue paper formal wear. But more than anything, he served as a point of connection and hope. He gave strangers something to talk about. He eased awkward moments with visitors and served as a focal point of entertainment. He was an overpriced, oversized dinosaur that would never, under normal circumstances, catch Anna’s eye. But, in this terrible time, this stuffed animal acted as a satellite, pulling in signals of kindness and transmitting them to everyone who saw him, especially Anna.

Eventually Anna went home again and the dinosaur with her. He continued to play a role in our lives. He watched over her when she struggled through bad days. He was the greeter at her 12th birthday party. And he inspired many an art rendering. I guess the point of all this is that you never really know what’s going to make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe it's the 4oz cup of Mango Tango sorbet or maybe it's the ridiculous effort of a group of friends to buy and transport an oversized dinosaur to the hospital. Regardless of how the opportunity presents itself, the focus here is to look for and find those opportunities. You can make a difference. Maybe an opportunity will present itself today.

After many months of being nameless, the dinosaur formally assumed the name, Nameless. He resides in Anna’s art room where he is currently wearing a birthday hat and bird watching from the window.