City of Hope: Hope Warriors

Hope Warriors Video

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When I got the call to photograph the City of Hope, Hope Warriors and share their stories, it was a no brainer. As I take a step back and think about why this project is so important to me, the best person to tell this story is my wife, Shell.

It’s Friday morning, it’s my first day off in a week, the sun isn’t even up … but I am.  It’s cold, rainy and I have an appointment on the other side of town in thirty minutes.  I really want to stay in my warm bed, reschedule for another time and go back to sleep.  But, the people I committed to meet, time has no patience for them and they are counting on me. OK, I’m up.

After the tedious drive along the Foothill Freeway, I arrive. I leave the heated seats of my warm car and walk through the irritating rain into the facility.  As I walk into the modest lobby, the room erupts with good mornings, thank you’s and applause. I am immediately welcomed and indulged by volunteers and nurses. 

I am whisked off to bullpen and directed to a bed, one by one staff approach and accommodate my every request: 

blanket – check

green tape –check

gummies – check

cookies – check

headphones – check

These nurses seem eager to overindulge me I guess this is as close to sleeping in as I will get today.  I suggest to the nurse, another warm blanket would do the trick – check.  I remind myself, I’m here, let’s get this done so I snuggle in sunglasses on, headphones secure as the rhythm of the machines lull me to a dull sleep…

My mind takes me back to 2010 and I am running through the massive City of Hope campus, every step, every stride, something hurts.   I have to hurry, football is on, I have stuff I have to do.  I try and distract my brain from this “intolerable” discomfort by surveying the landscape, the vibrant gardens, the trees adorned with love notes, the expanse of the this self-sustained little city is impressive, now I am hungry. I rounded a corner and just past a decorative fountain off in the distance, looming high above everything was the main structure, at its base, the finish line.  I push through the pain in my knees and try my best to ignore the cold air as it burns inside my lungs, look at me I’m such a do-gooder. 
The home stretch, cold beer, Advil, football game, here I come. I hear faint cheers, probably for me, because I am so awesome. The next thirty seconds rocked me to my core and changed my world forever. As I slowed my run to a jog - ok my jog to a walk, my attention was drawn overhead.  Patients, their families and friends, nurses and volunteers were pressed against the windows of the main building.  Standing side by side, some holding flowers, some handwritten signs, others hold onto IV stands, all of them cheer me along.  Hanging from those IV stands is the reason I am here … the only thing I feel are my warm tears running down my face onto my purple shirt.

The quiet of the machines wake me, it shuts off after it took what it needed from me. I take a sip of my third juice box – check, and a bite from my fourth cookie - check, I take off my sunglasses, stretching as I look over my shoulder at the IV stand, that little hanging bag filled with liquid gold – check.  .

In 2010 time stopped for me.  I lost my best friend, my sister, Kelly.  I wish I had time to sit at the foot of her bed again, I would give anything to massage her feet, I wish I had time to watch her sleep, or smell her smell, or hold her hand.  But time wasn’t on her side, time had no patience for her.  I know Kelly is watching me, cheering me on, holding flowers and a handmade sign not as I run, but as I lay here surrounded by Hope Warriors who will stop at nothing to get donors … they count on people like me and you for this bag as it gives time to someone who needs it.