Nick is the ward’s naughty boy

There is this boy in the ward, named Nick. He is always around, going from one room to another, visiting other kids. He is 14yrs old. He seems physically much smaller and younger than his age but mentally much older. He’s been in and out of hospitals for about four years.

I understand that he will have a bone marrow transplant soon. He is given 20% success. I don’t know how to interpret this number. Is it good or bad? I take it as bad. I feel sorry for him. I also think that, despite Melanie’s aggressive condition, she stands a better chance than him.

I see Nick’s mother often going out the ward and smoking. Hardly smiling. Smoking??? Is she crazy, I think? What a silly act. Smoking in the garden of cancer treatment hospital – people must be out of their mind – just does not make sense.

I now (years later) understand the silliness of my judgement on this woman. Who am I to judge people like that? Nick’s mother has gone through four years of nightmare in her life and smoking seems to be giving her what needs to continue. I now understand her much better. Everyone has their own reasons. What might seem like a silly act to someone may be just what the person needs to hang on and hope.

She explained at one occasion how the bone marrow transplant worked. Kill all the bone marrow with conditioning chemotherapy or radiotherapy, then inject the new bone marrow or the stem cells through the Hickman line. Is that it, I ask myself. Wow that sounds so easy. At this point I am so ignorant that I know nothing about complications of transplant. Also, I don’t need to know because Melanie is not facing this situation.

Nick had his transplant. I saw him a few times in isolation room then never saw him again. I thought of him often because he was friendly to Melanie. He had impressed me with his knowledge about every drug and its use in oncology. With his 20% chance, did he make it?

Two years after his transplant, one day I saw Nick at outpatients clinic. I smiled and said “hi” to him. He responded the same way but obviously he didn’t recognise me. The boy who was given 20% survival chance was standing in front of me. He seemed to be doing well. That made me happy at that instance. I hope he is still doing well.