Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy

It’s been a long 5 years but relationships are growing and changing at Levine Children’s Hospital.  I’ve gone from admiration and love, to fear and anxiety and then back again with these doctors.  The walls and people that once crippled me upon entering after Isabella’s death have become a second home to me.  I know I can joke a lot about how a large donation commitment can buy you a hospital friendship, but it’s become much more than that.  I feel like I have become so much stronger around them.  Just a few years ago, I could barely stand without my knees buckling when I knew Dr. Kaplan was going to be at an ISF event.  Then, this past July – I find myself in the oncology clinic helping give gifts to the kids for our Christmas in July event.  I feel  him coming down the hall before I even see him, just like it used to be –  and my heart still stops for a minute.  We exchange pleasantries and hugs – like you do with an old boyfriend who you run into at a Starbucks years later.  It’s uncomfortable because there was history… but it’s becoming more comfortable because there IS history.  Not sure if I can ever feel totally comfortable around him – but I’m trying really hard.

Luckily, my new contact at Levine isn’t my old boyfriend Dr. Kaplan  🙂  As I sat in the “Green Room” of the NBC Charlotte news studio this week for over an hour with Dr. Javier Osterheld (one of Isabella’s past oncologists), I found myself comfortable and enjoying the company. We were together to talk on air about the MIBG treatment room ISF is funding at Levine’s.  We talked about all things cancer, the hospital, family, beer and other things that might be tad inappropriate.  I found myself laughing and enjoying the company of a man who I wasn’t the biggest fan of several years ago.  Cancer can make you love and hate people all in the same week.  He is easier for me because we don’t have the 5 year history that I had with Kaplan.  He wasn’t there in the beginning or the end.

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We talked about his training with Isabella’s Dream Team and I asked him how many half-marathons he had done in the past.  His answer… “This is my first.  And I’m doing it for you and Isabella.”  Maybe he was bullied into doing it at first, but maybe he’s just really an amazing guy and we lose that vision of these doctors when they give us horrible news about our children.  It brought me back to my ‘Why I loved Him’ blog post  about how you go through these feelings of total admiration for these people because your child’s life is in their hands.  You put this God-like complex on them and they don’t ask for that.  In the end, they really are just normal people who like you have jobs they love and are just trying to save the life of kids.  But they are also people who drink beer, and make fun of themselves and laugh and cuss… just like you.
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I find that through Isabella’s death, new things come to life, like friendships with people you once hated that were really only trying to save her.  I can see them all more clearly now – and they are all amazing people.

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