Every morning at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center, social workers and medical providers and casemanagers squeeze their way into the small yellow cottage on Calhoun Street, a mile away from the main campus of the Children’s Hospital, with children on their minds.
The four rambunctious boys who took up the entire waiting room with their energy. They struggled to wait for their older sister to be discharged from her medical appointment. What these boys didn’t know was that their sister was so nervous to confront the doctor regarding what happened to her, that she hesitated to even get up off of the couch in the waiting room, and instead confided in her mother quietly about her fears regarding the medical exam. Her brothers tore through ice-pops and juice boxes, and zig-zagged their way through the outdoor playground, as interns chased after them with napkins and anxious smiles. Their mom gazed on at her children moving in every direction, sighed, and prepped to take all five of her children back home after the appointment peacefully on an hour long drive home.
On the care providers’ minds as they walked into work was also two young boys who loved the Girl Scout Cookies we kept for patients in our office’s kitchen, but who didn’t want to leave the playroom’s video games to go talk about what happened to them with the doctor. What also stays with these providers is how neither a mother nor a father accompanied these boys on the day of their appointment.
The memory of another little boy- who ran in and out of the intern’s office with Paw Patrol puzzles he wanted us to display for him on the highest shelf- would make the social workers who spoke with his grandma chuckle.
But the memory of the two children, a boy who was on the autism spectrum and his nonverbal sister, who came into the office with their grandmother would make the doctor on their case think about how such unspeakable acts could be done towards the world’s most vulnerable young children.
As I left New Orleans and all of my new friends two weeks early due to an impending storm off of the Gulf of Mexico, I scurried through the Louis Armstrong, Atlanta, and Philadelphia airports, trying to not miss a flight or become dehydrated or miss a call from one of my parents. I smiled at the little kiddos that walked by, holding onto their mom or dad’s much larger hand with their much smaller one and thought about all the children who had come into the officer before my experience with Duke Engage, and all of the children who would come in after I had departed.