MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Actually, No. This is Not a Lifetime Movie.

If you’ve never had a child stuck in the hospital for any reason, count yourself very, very blessed. Because a hospital for children, especially around the holidays, is just depressing as hell. You walk down to the Starbucks on the ground floor to get a coffee, or over to the cafeteria for some wretchedly bad hospital food, and everywhere you go you see other parents, walking around looking shell-shocked. Especially at night, when the folks there just for day clinic visits are cleared out, and all the other parents you see are there because they, like you, have a child in the hospital.

This morning , when I went upstairs to take a shower in the parent center, I could hear through the wall in the next bathroom over another mother sobbing heartbreakingly in the shower, perhaps letting out all the emotion she has to keep hidden in front of her child, perhaps because her child’s outlook isn’t great. I don’t know, but I felt her pain. Every parent here looks utterly exhausted, we’re all walking around like zombies, dark circles under eyes, shuffling around, trying to remember what life outside these walls feels like. Nobody here cares about awards season or who got nominated for SAGs or Golden Globes. Time stops here.

Casual conversations here are unlike anything you would have under normal circumstances. Earlier today, I talked with a dad whose daughter celebrated her second birthday just last week here at the hospital; she was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma several months ago. Tonight, while taking a breather down at Starbucks, I had a conversation with a mom whose four-year-old son desperately needs a heart transplant; she’s wrestling with guilt over praying for her son to get a new heart, because she knows that the answer to their prayers will mean grief for another mother. Parents here make eye contact with each other in the cafeteria, in the hallways, on the elevator, and all anyone can do is nod in solidarity: Yes, we’re here, in a children’s hospital, ten days before Christmas, and our kids are sick or hurting, and it just sucks. That nod of acknowledgment just says all there is to say. What else is there? We are, in this moment, united in a community of parenthood none of us wants to be in.

I’ve had to stay at hospitals with my own kids more than I’d like. A few times with my oldest daughter when she was a pre-teen and teen. Several times with Luka, of course, related to his seizure disorder, but those stays, although they involve some procedures he’s not crazy about, are mostly just endlessly boring and consist of spending a lot of time keeping him amused and diverted, because he’s not feeling sick, and it’s hard to be an active 8-year-old kid confined to a hospital for five or six days with electrodes glued to your head. This stay with Neve having this surgery, though, is just emotionally and physically exhausting.

And even so, I know that in the greater scheme of things (yeah, I lose major “good writer” points for that turn of phrase, but forgive me, will you?), however hard this is, there are other parents here who have it so much worse. Kids in ICU, some of whom will never go home again. Kids right down the hall in the oncology ward, fighting for their lives. I see those parents, especially, taking their sick little ones for walks in wagons loaded up with bags and bottles — liquid nutrition, antibiotics, chemotherapy — tiny kiddos, so frail, so fragile. A little girl, perhaps seven or eight, her hair gone from chemo, who had carefully drawn on new eyebrows with a Sharpie marker. How do those parents get through it? You do what you have to do to be there for your child. You wish you could take their pain on yourself and never see them hurting like this. You fear. You hope. You cry. You pray. I am grateful that we are here temporarily, that my child will heal from this pain in a few months and be okay.

Having your child undergo even minor surgery is nerve-wracking. Having your child go through a major surgery like this, with a long rehabilitation afterwards, is just daunting. They put a nerve block in during the surgery (kind of like an epidural, but more specific to the area operated on), which I was absolutely in favor of, having had one myself two years ago when I had my surgery for that pesky pancreatic tumor. It makes those first couple days after surgery better, and so long as Neve’s not moving, between the nerve block, the morphine, and the oxycodone, she’s more or less okay. Uncomfortable, but tolerable.

Except that somehow in the wee hours, sometime after the pain specialist had finally gotten the nerve block to the right level to control the pain, something happened and it shut off. So this morning she was suddenly in terrible pain and it took quite a while to figure out why. This happened shortly after Neve’s dad had come to take over for a while so I could go work on post for Bunker, so right as we were gearing up and figuring out that I really wanted to reopen the edit to tweak some more before we did the final sound mix, I got a text from Neve’s dad letting me know that her pain was through the roof and they’d figured out the nerve block got shut off, and were giving her pain meds to fix it. Then another text later asking me to call Neve, because she was upset; physical therapy had come to do her first session, and she was in so much pain they couldn’t move her leg enough to get her out of bed, much less get her up on crutches. She was frustrated, and hurting, and she wanted her mommy. And I knew her dad was there, and that he would get her through it, but goshalmighty, mother-guilt is a terrible thing. How could I be off working on my film while my daughter was in the hospital and hurting? Wasn’t I the worst mother ever? Yup, I sure felt like it.

And then my three younger guys wanted to come see their sister, and see me, tonight. And I was so emotionally exhausted I just wanted to lie down for a nap, but more than that I wanted — needed — to see them all and hug them and kiss them and cuddle them and smell their hair. They wanted me to come home, of course. They are fine with their stepdad, Mike, but they want their mommy. All I could do was say, I know, I know. I’m sorry. But I have to be here for your sister right now. And if you ever have to be in the hospital, know that I will be there for you then, as I am for her now. Because that’s what mommies do. But still, the guilt when they cry, when they’re clinging to you in a velcro-hug and don’t want to let you go, cuts you to the core. Yes, more guilt, because when you’re raised Catholic that’s your modus operandi, right? Your go-to emotion for anything that’s wrong with anyone in your life. I want it to be okay for everyone, I want to be there for everyone, and there’s never enough of me to go around, it seems.

On the plus side, by the time I got back here, they had things back under control for Neve, pain-wise. Nerve block cranked up, oxycodone on board. She still can’t get up, but at least she was able to visit with a friend, and she’s up on her laptop now, chatting with more friends, so that’s a big improvement over tears and frustration. So long as she doesn’t move, it’s tolerable. When she has to move, not so much. And then tomorrow, physical therapy will show up, and we will have to try again to get her moving through the pain, and I will have to be brave and encouraging and strong for Neve so she can get through it. And I will, of course. Just as Neve pushed aside her own stress and pain tonight to snuggle with each of her siblings, to listen to Veda tell her all about her day at school, to hug Jaxon and tell him how much she misses him, to cuddle Luka and sing softly to him, “Baby don’t you cry, gonna make a pie …”

That’s my girl.

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3 Responses to “Actually, No. This is Not a Lifetime Movie.”

  1. Alice says:

    Kim, this is absolutly amazing,
    I almost never cry, but this moved me to tears. I hope you guys will be fine.

  2. leahnz says:

    bless your girl, kim, and wishing her a speedy recovery and return to good health. (i can relate to some of what you write about here so eloquently, having gone through a very bad patch recently with my own boy, which has improved, thankfully – hopefully permanently – and having seen wee ones in a far worse state during that difficult time. one thing is clear to me: make the most of each day we have together)

  3. Linda Downing says:

    Hi Kim, I just sat down with your blog for the first time in a while. Your writing always moves me. How is Neve doing? Is she home from the hospital? Please give her my very best get well soon wishes. It sounds like she has a long road of recovery, but I remember her being very determined, like her mother… Combine that with your family’s strong bond, love and support and I’m sure that road will be much smoother. I sure miss you. I’m also happy to read you have completed your first film! Brava!!! Thank you for your writing here and for being the terrific mother to four amazing young people who will become part of our planet’s future. Hug, Linda

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon