WorldTowning and Healthcare: Life Lessons from a Paris hospital


Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
– Miriam Beard

Life Lessons

Before we became official WorldTowners, we spent an extended period of time in Paris. During that summer, Avalon became ill and was admitted to Necker Children’s hospital in Paris for a long and bumpy five days of ups and downs. This was combined with fevers and lumps and topped off with tears and compassion. When she was officially diagnosed with mononucleosis, also known as “the kissing disease,” I asked her if she had been kissing French boys behind my back. Her response was, “No, yuck.” Now that she is a teenager, I wonder how long that attitude will last?

I like to think I am open to learning in every situation, every-single-day. I would have never guessed that I would revisit some important life lessons in a children’s hospital in a foreign country. But, I had a lot of time to sit and think about our lives, our choices and our immediate situation. In the previous 30 days, we had dealt with shingles, severe food poisoning and now mono. I was tired, oh so tired, but grateful and overwhelmed with joy at the same time. From that reflective time, I realized that there were lessons I was learning.

Lessons from the corner of a hospital room with a view (a view of the Eiffel Tower that is).

Life could always be worse.

If you have your health and your loved ones everything else is just details. We entered this hospital with overwhelming emotions of fear, but we left with our burden lifted. I could not help but notice on my trips to the cafeteria and children’s center that everyone at that hospital was not as fortunate as us. Not everyone gets the results they had hoped for and some do not leave dancing on their tip toes. If you are feeling self-pity about your life, money, a job, or your relationship, you can gain a new attitude and perspective within minutes by volunteering at a local children’s hospital.

Children are smart and capable, trust them and let them speak.

How many times have you spoken for your child when an adult has asked them a question? Our general philosophy is to let the children speak for themselves, but I do tend to speak for them when their health is the issue. This was an exception. Because I did not speak the language and all the nurses communicated in French, Avalon was in control—communicating what was going on with her body and what she was feeling. It is amazing to watch her proactively manage her healthcare. Let’s face it, sooner than later, she will have to be able to do this, and we want to make sure she has cultivated and practiced those skills along the way.

The kindness of strangers can really make a tough, emotional day so much better. Acknowledge and appreciate their kindness.

I have always felt that it takes a very special and kind soul to work with ill children all day and keep a positive attitude. Avalon told me one day during her stay, “The nurses here are so nice to me.” They treated her like a little adult, which she always responds to very well. It was great that they were unable to communicate with me, because it gave her complete freedom to engage with them in free-flowing conversations. The kindnesses extended to the hospital administrators, as well. They personally walked me to the registration desk (more than once), because I was completely lost. And, there was the man who gave me 10 cents, because I was short money in the cafeteria. It is important to remember that there are so many kind souls who far outnumber those who are not.

Be compassionate to people who are moving slowly because of a language barrier.

I have been this person—the one who could not figure out the “pick a number” system at registration, because it was all in French, and I was without my two translators. I am the person who could not communicate what my daughter weighed, because I did not know the kilo conversion. (I have since learned.) I am the person who had to go to the pharmacy by herself to find a fever reducer that fit my daughter’s weight and was not Advil. (It interferes with neck injuries.) I have traveled to other countries, and I have had to deal with a language barrier before, but at the time I have never had to deal with a medical issue involving my child where I could not communicate. It humbled me and changed me forever. It is incredibly scary and emotional to be in a medical situation with your children and lack the proper tools to communicate.

Take time each day to just sit and talk with your children.

Avalon and I had some really deep and enlightening conversations during her time in the hospital. In general, Will and I spend a lot of time chatting with our kids, but sometimes life happens and we wake up realizing that the routine has taken a front-row seat. Avalon and I played games in the playroom, talked about this upcoming school year, and I told her about the “Dream” class I was taking online. Then, we discussed our family dreams of travel and how this whole experience made us stronger for future travel.

Do you have unexpected lessons that were learned in surprising circumstances? #WTLessons

Has this month of sharing our medical stories from our three years of WorldTowning eased your worries? Should we get you rolling to launch on your travel adventure?

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