Tuesday, January 22, 2008

(not my) Baby

...but 'mine' in a different sense.
Today at work a baby died.
This morning, he was perfect. He laughed, he grabbed, he arched his back to get out of his high chair, and in one neglectful handful of minutes, he shattered like glass.
In fact, he is not dead right this minute; it is strange how the line between death and life is actually so grey and traversable, in medicine (though not grey and traversable enough). This afternoon he drowned in a pond in a yard (if you live close by you will know how COLD a pond would have been today), unattended or unaccounted for. He was discovered, CPR was performed, ALS attended and intubated, pumped him with drugs, and ventilated him, and warmed him up a tiny bit (initial core temperature was 21 degrees...generally acknowledged to be the lower threshold of survivable hypothermia, although 'a patient is not dead until they are warm and dead' because cold actually preserves brain tissue in situations where lack of oxygen would normally kill it), and his heart started beating again. He was cold. Deep in a coma. He had been dead.
His lungs were full of fluid. His temperature was difficult to control. Several hours in the ER he suddenly had one pupil that was 3 times larger than the other, and slow to react, which indicates brain swelling on that side and probable irreversible brain damage.
All our hearts dropped when I discovered those pupils. You HOPE that the glass that shattered was simply cracked, or broken in such a way that a little heat and a little skill will restore it completely, but those pupils showed us just how completely shattered he was.
His tiny shape was flown in a helicopter to a more advanced hospital. He had a tube in his tummy, another in his trachea, a machine breathing for him, sedation and painkillers, four IV lines, a tiny heart monitor, a tiny hard collar and two IV bags holding his head still, a catheter, and he looked so SMALL in the adult stretcher with pediatrician and flight paramedics sitting next to him. Oh, we are SO VULNERABLE it is a miracle any of us survive at all.
Jesus, send all your angels. Heal him, heal him, heal him. Give him another chance to snuggle, to throw his sippy cup on the floor, to laugh. Abandon all your posts and fly to him.

I rarely cry after calls, but this one brought me a flood of tears. Matthew almost drowned once. A dozen times a week I have a panicky minute of fear; "Where are they? Are they safe? Why is it so quiet?" No matter how tightly or how gently we hold them, sometimes they break beyond repair.

2 comments:

Tonya said...

Oh Melissa. My heart is breaking. I have HUGE fears of my kids drowning. Worse than other fears. I don't know why that one is so huge, but it is. I have to force myself to not panic whenever we are near water. And my 3 older kids can all swim! But still, scares me to no end. I can only imagine the parents grief.

Sara, Leigh, and Kaleb said...

I don't know how you do your job...I know you hear it all the time and most of the time I do know how you do your job. I'm not squeamish, not scared of medical moments, but today, of all days, I don't know how you do your job.

My baby turned three today and I had that moment this morning when I thanked God that we have this miracle in our lives. That fear, that small trepidation that this is not a gift but a loan that could be called back at any minute, is a constant in my heart, my head. This story is the reaffirmation that every day we have is a gift and that I am going to fight tooth and nail to ensure that I never know the pain that that mother is experiencing right now.

Despite the fact that it made me cry, thank you for sharing this story and reminded us that we have to hold tight enough to protect and loose enough to grow.