As nurses, we all have patients who stick with us. I’ve thought of Henry many times since we transferred him six months ago from Dublin to an American hospital to undergo groundbreaking treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia.
His prognosis was poor—a fact he was well aware of. He’d told his father he wanted to “be done.” He’d had enough of hospitals and the medicine that didn’t cure him and only made him feel worse. He was ambulatory and stable from a medical standpoint, but had the drawn and haggard look of the chronically ill. Most disturbing was his reticence. There was none of the enthusiasm I’d expect from a 12-year-old riding across the Atlantic in a Learjet—he couldn’t even be coaxed to lean into the cockpit.
The only time he perked up was when we landed for fuel in Keflavik, Iceland. He sat up and gazed out the window on our approach, looking interested in his surroundings for the first time. I found out from his dad that he’d missed a school trip to the island due to his cancer, and I started telling him all I knew of Iceland, which wasn’t much. At that time, I had never left the airport. My Icelandic experience was not much more worldly than […]