Two Kids in Hospital
October 18, 2010 § 1 Comment
A hospital stay can be an adventure and it can be a nightmare. This is the story of two kids from the skin ward I photographed the other day.
I was first called down to the ward to take some photos. I knew nothing about the patient, just that it was a child. Walking towards the room I saw two nurses waiting outside, both wearing a kind of red jacket I’d never seen used before. At first I assumed the patient was contagious, although the protective garments in those cases are usually yellow. “You better put on one of these,” one of the nurses said and handed me one of the jackets. “This girl has developed a serious aversion against white hospital uniforms”. I put on the jacket and entered. What kind of reaction could I expect?
It’s quite common that kids are nervous when they come to the studio to be photographed or we arrive at the ward. Many of them are used to being prodded with instruments and pricked with needles and that’s what they expect when they meet another white-clad person. Knowing this, I take some time explaining what we’re gonna do, showing the kid my camera, how the flashes work etc. Taking a shot of one of the parents and then show it to the kid on the LCD is a good trick. When they realize it’s just regular photos they usually relax and the shoot goes smoothly. I’ve had kids who started out hiding under the waiting room couch ending up as the most cooperative subjects just by acknowledging that they’re afraid and talking them through it. Not so with this girl.
She was four years old and had epidermolysis bullosa (EB), which means she’s probably been a frequent visitor to the hospital ever since she was born. I seldom forget a face, and I knew I had photographed her about six months earlier. That didn’t go too well. This time however, I was prepared and wearing one of those red jackets. I was accompanied by one doctor and two nurses, in addition to the a nurse already in the room. As I thought “maybe the red jackets will calm her, but this crowd certainly won’t,” she started screaming.
I have two little girls myself and I photograph kids all the time so I’m quite used to crying, but this one was screaming in panic. Cries that pierced my heart. I was there to get the shots, but all I wanted was to comfort her. Her parents were apparently used to her reacting like this, but I was not prepared for it. Behind my large camera and in my too big, pyjamas-like red jacket I tried to finish the shoot quickly, muttering futile comforting words as I moved around. When I had gotten all the shots I needed except her face, she suddenly relaxed, like she realized I was actually not pricking her with a needle. I took the photo and said: “That’s all. You are a very brave girl.”
On my way out she started screaming again. The other people with red jackets were not just taking photos.
Later that day a 3-year-old girl was sent up to the studio. She had atopic dermatitis and this was her first visit to the hospital. She approached our counter clutching two teddy bears from our waiting room, looking a bit uncertain. I asked her if she wanted to bring her new-found furry friends into the studio, and she nodded. “All right,” I told her mom. “Just wait around the corner a few seconds while I prepare the studio.”
Crossing my fingers for this shoot to be a smooth one I opened the studio door just to see the mother racing after her toddler down the corridor. “Is it OK if we come back in 15 minutes?,” she shouted. “She heard some music and off she was. Everything’s so exciting here.”‘