Body Sense

WINTER | 2019

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Marley was born two weeks ago with congenital issues that have still not been fully diagnosed. He has a head of thick, curly hair and striking blue eyes. His skin is hot, and his breathing is very rapid. Marley's life will be measured in weeks, not months or years, and he will not leave this hospital during his short life. He cannot hear, and it is unclear what he can see. If you place your finger in his tiny palm, he does not grip it. The first time I visit him in the neonatal intensive care unit, I massage his mother first. When I ask if I can work with Marley, she looks at me like I'm crazy. I softly place my hand, with no weight at all, on her forearm. "Like this," I said. She goes soft under my hand and her eyes fill with tears. She nods and I move slowly to Marley in his crib. I touch him so, so softly. I move with his movements. I whisper to him, "You are doing a great job! Look at you, moving those legs. You're a pretty cute kid, but I bet you know that." I smile at Marley and Marley's mom smiles at me. Eventually Marley falls asleep. As I'm leaving the room, his mother grabs my hand. She stares at her son. She squeezes my hand. I squeeze back. She lets go. When I visit again, there is no hesitation. Marley's mom beams at me, "He really likes massage." Kerry Jordan is the operations director of Healwell, a growing team of massage therapists who work with children at Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC, integrating massage therapy into care for hematology/ oncology, palliative care, and complex needs patients. Learn more about the Healwell program at A Moment By Kerry Jordan—your resource for all things bodywork 15 Ed Note: This is just one of the many experiences Kerry Jordan and her Healwell collaborators have had in working with hospitalized children. Sometimes the work is about showing the value of massage to a parent scared to touch their sick child, and sometimes the work is simply about being there for another.

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