A porcupine ball (not as prickly as it sounds) has colored lights inside that flash when you hit it. Thank you, patient transporter Suzy Dix, for bringing a few of these along.

Naturally, an infant can’t understand why her sweet mama, robed in beautiful colors and sparkles, suddenly refuses to feed her. Or maybe an infant wakens from anesthetic to serious pain in his lip with his arms restricted by cardboard splints. The resulting heart-wrenching cries demand some kind of response. When jostling and tapping and walking and cooing don’t work, most always the flashing light in the ball does the trick. Hold the ball up high and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and your chance of success spikes.

Most Indians who have gone to school have some grasp of three languages; Hindi, English and the local language of the state where they grew up. “Twinkle, Twinkle” seems to be a song that is taught in the English curriculum, so the parents often sing along.

It’s an amazing privilege to spend time with patients and their families at a very vulnerable moment in their lives. When you meet the eyes of a mother whose child has just substituted a deep breath for the next scream and nestled in close to her breast, your shared humanity stirs.