“Time of death…. 0345.”
I looked around the delivery room. Sniffling. Tears. Hugs all around.
“You two can take the rest of the night off if you like. I know this will be hard to process. I am available to talk if you need it.” The attending’s voice cracked. He ran a hand through his short hair.
I looked over at my fellow student. She was sobbing.
Someone came over to the warmer and covered up the little body with a blanket. Mom had been wheeled out while we were still working on the baby once the mad dash for the emergency C-section was over.
She didn’t know. Yet.
I stepped back and felt my feet crunch into debris. I looked down feeling numb. The floor was littered with the trash from the resuscitation attempt.
Not sure what to do, I stood off to the side, observing the aftermath, the grieving of the staff as they cleaned the room and readied it for the next patient. How many had already died here? How many more would die?
What was I supposed to feel?
Everyone ignored me. I was an intruder, not part of the core family. I was just passing through, one of the dozens of medical students that would come and go this year. I was nothing in the grand scheme of things. So I left.
As I passed the recovery area I caught a glimpse of the pediatric attending standing next to the mother, holding her hand.
“I am so sorry. We worked on him for over an hour but just could not bring him back.”
The most terrible sob/groan I had ever heard emanated from her lips as she double over in grief. Goosebumps rose up on my arms. I felt some sadness for her.
I kept walking.
I found an empty room on the OB floor and positioned the standard issue rocking chair by the window. I sat in it in the dark and rocked, looking out at the city lights from the tenth floor.
Why couldn’t I feel something for this baby?
I felt nothing. Nothing! I felt compassion for his mother, but I could not actually mourn him.
Eventually, I worked myself up into some tears, grieving the monster that I clearly was. I felt terrible shame.
Good, at least my eyes will look red.
I sat there and rocked until the sun started peeking up over the horizon. Then it was time for AM rounds on the floor. I checked my face in the mirror over the sink, squared my shoulders, and headed off to the nursery. Self pity was stupid. This wasn’t about me, after all…
Thanks to Jane from Out of The Rabbit Hole again for asking the question: Have you lost a patient to death? How did you deal with it? This was my first pediatric death. I take it out and examine it every now and then as I still marvel at the fact that I felt nothing at the time. Typically when someone dies on my watch, I vary around a mixture of guilt and sadness. Guilt, even though it was not my fault. I remember the faces, even though I don’t remember the names. The suffering. The diagnosis. But mainly the faces.
This was Black and White Challenge Day #2. I nominate John Callaghan. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to post a black and white photo and your own nominee every day for five days.