Yesterday I held a child in my hands who weighed less than two pounds. Her crime was that she was born too soon, her lungs and other organs were not ready for this world.
Her mother held her in her pelvis for seven months. As she grew from a peanut to an olive, from an olive to a pear, the little girl’s mother anticipated who she would grow up to be. She loved her. The whole family rejoiced when they found out she was a girl. From the first time she kicked, her mother felt the love grow. Through all the morning sickness and frequent trips to the bathroom, her heart just pounded deeper, swollen with bliss.
But the little girl was born too soon.
The IV taped to her hand was wider than her fingers and the room had to be kept warm for the lack of body fat and muscle attached to her bones. The ventilator mask kept her lungs working as machines monitored her oxygen levels and EKG. Her heart was beating at 121 beats per minute, then 119, then 125. I watched the numbers jump, not realizing I was holding my breath until I finally left the room; dizzy and sweating.
Everyone was high anxiety. The middle aged nurse asked if I knew the room number, just in case our patient coded right there on the table. I thought to myself, “This was how delicate human life can be.”
The child looked like a doll, it didn’t feel real.
I can’t have empathy in situations like this, even though a big part of my job is empathizing with my patients. This situation, though, shouldn’t happen to anyone. This poor baby was barely alive.
I didn’t put much thought into why or how or what happened up until this point. Her mother wasn’t present so I pictured her as Mother Mary, her daughter so precious and innocent. It is not my job to know the circumstance. Sometimes it is better if you don’t know anyways because the details just make it sting deeper.
When a child’s life is at stake, the only thing that matters in the injustice of it all. It makes you question your higher power. Somethings don’t make sense, and some were never meant to be understood in the first place.
These tough situations often make me feel like an extension of my machine: cold, mechanical, and unfazed by all I see. I smile when I want to scream and hold back the fear in my eyes. I never cry, because crying is unprofessional.
This story does not end with “happily ever after.” I wish I could say it wasn’t that common too. There are people out there who suffer unspeakable loss and we live in a world that presents enormous amounts of pain, sometimes with no logical explanation.