Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I have a very sad story with an uncertain ending to share with you. Wendy, a student from my old Happy class, just five days shy of her sixth birthday, has leukemia. In retrospect, the signs were clear. She was the girl who bumped her eye the day of the winter festival and performed perfectly despite her gruesome shiner. Over one month later and it's only just about healed. She's been in D'Arcy's class now for a month and hasn't been participating at all. We attributed it to the change and her tendency to be moody. She'd been complaining of sore legs, claiming that she "was growing." She came to school with her arm in a sling a few weeks ago, and didn't ever say what the problem was. We didn't know there was a problem - nobody did.

After school today the director, his wife, D'Arcy, and I went out to the biggest hospital in Seoul, where she has been for about a week, to pay her a visit. Instead of what we know of Wendy we were met by an expressionless little person hidden behind mask and wheelchair. She didn't respond. All I could see were her eyes, which were not quite alert but not quite out of it. Apparently she'd been looking forward to the visit all day.

Imagine what it would feel like to be a six year old girl looking at four masked adults around you with tears in their eyes. She must be petrified. We had to be strong, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced, and I was glad of the mask that caught my tears. Her mother looked brave. She said she's quit her job as a university professor and only wishes she brought Wendy to the hospital sooner. Had they caught it sooner it wouldn't be so bad. They have put her on "anti-cancer" medicine and in three weeks they will know whether or not it's working. In the meantime, things aren't looking good. The cancer has spread through her entire body and her blood cells are not even close to where they should be. They couldn't quite explain it properly in English, but said some level is close to zero. Maybe her red blood cell count?

I have never actually visited a sick person in hospital before, let alone a young child who I have grown to care deeply for over the last nine months. It's heartbreaking for everyone. I can't imagine what her mother must feel like looking at her sick child and inevitably thinking about the future. Maybe she tries her best not to think about it. Is there anything worse than this? I can't think of anything.

We said our goodbyes and silently got onto the elevator. Four of us, one in each corner. Someone came on the elevator, took one look at us, and got off again.

Just as we were leaving Wendy's mother said that god will take care of her. Let's just hope something or someone does.


At April 04, 2006 10:18 a.m. , Anonymous seadragon said...

That is so sad. I hope she gets better.

At April 04, 2006 10:56 p.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

Me too.

At April 04, 2006 11:03 p.m. , Anonymous katie said...

I'm sorry to hear this Jess. Even though she was not herself, I'm sure Wendy was thrilled to have you visit her. I will send her good vibes and I hope that she gets better before you leave to come back home. It's so horrible that almost every family around the world is touched by cancer.

At April 05, 2006 11:26 a.m. , Blogger Randi said...

I'm sure your visiting at the hospital made her feel really really good!!! Hopefully the hospital's atmosphere is ok...I don't know what the hospital is like there, but I know it made a big difference when my brother was at Sick Kids in T.O. Maybe get the kids in the class to make her decorations and stuff to hang up?

At April 05, 2006 6:22 p.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks for the comments, Katie and Randi.


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