It’s a tough go anytime you stay in hospital; harder still during a special time of year, like the Christmas holidays.
And it must be especially difficult when you’re just a kid and they’re not really sure what’s wrong with you.
That’s the situation I found Cole Percevault in last Friday at the Campbell River Hospital.
I was there too, tagging along with the Campbell River Storm junior hockey players who were handing out new teddy bears and plush toys to patients.
It’s something the club does every year and team owner Kevin Spooner – looking like a kid himself as he joined in on the giving fun – said it’s important for the players to be actively involved in their community and to help others.
It’s fun to photograph too, but I wasn’t about to barge into every room with the players and start popping off the flash, scaring the bejesus out of some sick soul in a flimsy hospital nightgown.
No, I went where you go when you want the scoop, the lowdown, the goods on everything happening in the ward: the nursing station.
“Come with me, we have someone special,” said one of the ever-helpful nurses as I followed her to a room. “He’s really looking forward to meeting the players.”
I guess it’s just habit and assumption that you’ll find someone elderly in a hospital bed. That’s usually the case, but not always.
In this room on the second floor was an 11-year-old boy with his mom at the bedside.
After introductions, I asked Cole what was wrong.
He shrugged, “Don’t know.”
“They’re going to send us to Vancouver,” his mom added.
They said it so quietly, yet the news was like a punch to the gut.
I didn’t let it show though – just couldn’t because Cole was looking back at me with the bravest little smile I’ve ever seen.
I could see some fear and maybe even a tear, but Cole’s determined look was not about to betray any weakness, especially with his heroes about to enter the room.
Cole’s a Storm fan and his face lit up as the players – boys themselves still – bounced into the room, full of energy and natural good cheer.
“Who’s your favourite? Come on, who?” the players asked Cole. “Severs? You like Jamie Severs?”
Cole smiled wider and nodded “ya” as the always-energetic Severs smiled right back. Then they handed Cole a teddy bear which really didn’t mean as much as having the entire junior hockey team in your hospital room.
“Wait, we have something really special for you,” said another player as he returned with a huge stuffed lap dog.
The toy was almost twice the size of Cole who was still smiling wide as the players moved on to the next room.
He looked admiring at the big dog, laid a his hand on its head and said, “I think I’ll give it to my little sister.”