Last Saturday I had the privilege of being invited to participate in a conference at Toronto General Hospital titled ‘Crossing the Street.’ This informative morning was to help educate parents of teenagers presently at Sick Kids Hospital who would be soon making the transition to the adult hospital, Toronto General. It was also designed for the teens as well and it covered all topics of concern in making such an adult shift in their lives.
Doctors, Coordinators, Counselors and experienced parents were available to offer information and assist everyone present with their questions and concerns. It was presented in a relaxed, informal environment to share experiences when navigating the hospital system.
It was a wonderful event and I am so grateful to have been invited to participate on the cardiac panel to offer any helpful information I could. Projects like these are so necessary for all family members to address any fears and queries in a non-threatening environment, meet others who have successfully transitioned to young adulthood and meet caring doctors, therapists and hospital staff. What a change thirty years has made!
Although this transition of crossing the street is huge for all involved at Sick Kids, transitions are a major part of everyone’s life from early childhood to elderly adulthood. No transition is as simple as just crossing the street. This is a great metaphor to remind us that although the distance may or may not be just a few hundred feet, the life changes presented are so much more.
Day care and starting school are the beginning of our transitions. Then we have high school, college or university, where we are no long a familiar face but often feel more of a number. We enter the work force, get married, have children, and ultimately retire. These are just a few of the transitions we encounter in our lives. For the teens at Sick Kids, they have yet another transition to face, and sadly it happens at the same time as other changes are taking place. It is often easier to embrace fear and overlook the reality that they will still be cared for by loving medical professionals.
From my observations of the participation from all, it was a highly successful conference. Teens got to share with each other while meeting other teen transplant recipients and parents got to meet parents who had successfully navigated these changes whether recently, or as in Lorie’s and my case, many years ago.
When sharing information with a staff worker about transitions, we fell into a conversation about the difficulty of transitioning into retirement. It is usually a welcome time where we envision freedom and a new lease on life, but along with that is a feeling of loss, confusion about our identity, and sense of purpose. We discussed how life is all about transition no matter your age and how each turn in the road of life brings us knowledge, wisdom, and strength.
A young transplant recipient, just seventeen, summed it up so wisely and simply when asked how he felt about his impending trip across the street.
‘I don’t have a big problem coming over here, it’s leaving there,’ he replied. My daughter Lorie’s most recent transition from cardiac patient to transplant recipient was less than two years ago and she still hasn’t left there. Her street was merely a different floor in the same hospital and she continues to visit her previous lab techs and cardiac team to offer a quick hello and more often than not a huge hug. How strong these connections remain.
I loved Kareem’s reply. He nailed it perfectly, and I believe it can be applied to every area of life. The problem isn’t necessarily where we are going. It’s leaving where we’ve been.