Finding a Heart
And still no heart.
At this point in the process, Sean's doctors say, many parents try to protect themselves by spending less time in the hospital. But not the Marshes. They were there as much as ever. Making cranes. When the first thousand were completed, the next thousand began. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, visitors would poke their heads in Sean's room, ask what was going on—and find themselves folding. Out of sensitivity to Hiromi, who is a deep believer in the power of the cranes, Victoria skirts the question of whether she really thought they'd make her wish come true. But she will say they gave her something to do, something people could pop in the room and join with her in doing, something that helped make the terrible wait a little more bearable and a lot more colorful. "A nurse would come in to change one of Sean's tubes and there'd be a really pretty crane hanging from it," she says with a laugh. "I'd say, 'No, don't touch that! Don't you see how beautiful it is?'"
But still no heart.
Time was becoming an issue. Sean's body was weakening with every day on life-support machines. And in a cruel coincidence, Patrick's father, who had been sick with cancer, suddenly died. The four hours of his funeral were the only time in Sean's entire hospital stay that both Victoria and Patrick were absent from his bedside.
And still no heart.
Not for Sean, and not for Hiro, either. As the weeks dragged on, the mothers' bond intensified. Hiromi would bring Victoria origami flowers on toothpick stems. Victoria would bring Hiromi origami birds with crystal droplets. And these were the least of the gifts. Hiromi, whose husband had returned to Japan to care for their two older sons, says Victoria gave her "the feeling of being sisters," and courage. "Sean's situation was worse than Hiro's," Hiromi says. "But Victoria was so brave. When I saw her being brave, I knew I could be brave, too. Sometimes I would go into the shower and cry—it was important for Hiro not to see me cry. But then I would come out, think of Victoria, and smile at him."
Hiromi gave Victoria the comfort of knowing that someone understood how she felt. "You gave birth to this tiny person who's lying in this big, giant bed. His eyes are closed, he's got tubes stuck in everywhere, and you can't even pick him up and hold him. You wait, and you wait, and you have no idea how long you'll be waiting, or if he's even going to make it in the end. Nobody can know how this feels. But Hiromi did."
In late February, on Sean's 29th day of life support, Victoria arrived at the hospital to see many people gathered in his room. She worried that something was wrong. But in fact the news was excellent: Hearts were on the way for both Hiro and Sean.