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This isn't happy. Feel free to skip it. I would. 

I've debated posting this.  I didn't wanna rain on anybody's parade, spoil the holiday.  But I feel I need to. It hasn't been the best holiday season. I worked the Friday-Sunday of Christmas weekend. That in and of itself wasn't so bad. I had the rest of the weekends in December off to make up for it. Things at the hospital were pretty quiet overall.

I have such a hard time finding the words to tell what happened. I don't know where to start. But I feel like I need to get it out. It started a week earlier. On Friday a young couple came into the free obstetric clinic we run once a week. I'd seen the mom-to-be off and on throughout this, her first pregnancy. She was always very sweet, very enthusiastic. They were such a cute couple. She'd come to term, no complications. We decided to induce her over the weekend, so I scheduled it.  They were expecting a girl, but ended up with an adorable baby boy.  He did well - eating and peeing and pooping, all the required activities of a newborn.  Got a little jaundiced, but nothing overly concerning.  Then he came into the clinic last Wednesday at 5 days of life. Mom was concerned about his breathing. He was still feeding well, gaining weight. But then when I was examining him his color would get dusky intermittently, he would breath too fast, and he had a distinct murmur that he not been noted previously.  I called the peds cardiologist at the nearest referral center and got them a same-day appointment.  Turns out he had hypoplastic left heart, a severe congenital heart defect.  They admitted him and made plans to send him to the nearest university medical center for peds cardiothoracic surgery to evaluate him.  The cardiologist told me it was a good catch.

The next time I heard about them was on Christmas day.  The specialists decided that the prognosis was poor and there was nothing to do. The baby came home with hospice. The mom decided that she didn't want the baby to die at home, so they brought him into the ER. I happened to be there admitting a pregnant woman who had had a seizure after taking some of her mother's prescription medications, but that's another story.  That sweet little baby boy died in the ER on Christmas day after one week of life.  It seems like such a cruel parody. And however illogical it may be, I can't help but feel...responsible almost. As if things would have been okay if I hadn't discovered the problem that set them down that path. I know that's foolish, and a bit self-important. It's times like that I really, really hate my job.  

As for the rest of the holidays, I took the week after Christmas off. My parents came down from Chicago for a couple of days. It was good to see them.  I've developed some kind of tonsillitis/upper respiratory infection - started with a sore throat on Christmas and has just progressed in spite of all the tea and honey.  Guess I'll actually have to take something for it. This new year seems full of daunting challenges that I don't even want to think about, yet at the same time I feel acutely aware of the fact that I have so much to be grateful for and no right to wallow. But in this moment I'm just sore - both my throat and my soul.  


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 1st, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Aw, hell. So sorry this happened, for them most of all of course, but also for you. You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel all those complicated emotions.

Jan. 5th, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words, and the virtual hug. I needed that.
Jan. 1st, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
*so many hugs* Though I'm sure you'll still feel awful about it, think what you saved the parents from. If they'd kept him at home without ever knowing, that mother would always wonder 'But what if I caught it in time', even if it wouldn't have made any difference. That's just how mothers operate. You saved her a lifetime of that at least.

Edited at 2012-01-01 11:31 pm (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
You're right. And thanks so much for the kind words.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for your kind words. Means alot to me.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
That's such a sad thing to have happened, but you did the best thing. As others said, at least the parents know what happened and aren't left wondering, waiting for the results of an autopsy. {{{{{hugs}}}}}
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Thanks for the virtual hug. Needed that.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
I wish I could make it better.

Have an ehug.
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Thanks. I needed that.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)

If I were the parents, I would have been grateful for the diagnosis. It's not much of a warning in this case, and I know such news is devastating, but if the baby had just died suddenly? They would be hating themselves for not knowing why. This is just one of those things you can't control.

You are so brave, my dear, for doing what you do. You are a Dr. McCoy. Just remember what he undoubtedly learned in his years of medical practice and probably often tells his doctors and nurses: that forgiveness is the hardest part of the job but it's as necessary as breathing, too.

*hugs you some more*
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your kind words. And you're right - I'm glad they got some warning since there was nothing we could do. *hugs back*
Jan. 2nd, 2012 01:01 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry--I too find that terrible stories at work affect me more over the holidays too. I work in kind of a depressing field as well (you can PM me if you want to trade stories), but for every horrible story over the holidays--there are usually one or two that I find balance it out--and I'm sure there are one or two for you as well. Lives you've saved, or lives you've improved by something small or what might seem insignificant to you. You're not self-important--you have an important service role to play, but also one that is very influential and powerful, and you're not allowing yourself to forget that--which I think is critical. You need to be aware of it in order to do a good job--and not everyone is as conscientious or dedicated as you, or cares as much--and I have no doubt that people that receive medical services from you are very, very grateful for it.

*hugs* Hoping that the new year brings you joy and happiness, and good health to you and yours and every one of your patients.
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your kind words. I needed the pep-talk! And I hope you have a great new year, too!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
Thanks so much. It really does help to process in writing, and I greatly appreciate your kind words. *hugs*
Jan. 2nd, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
*gentle hugs*
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
Thanks, dear. Needed that.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 03:30 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry. You did everything right, everything you could have. *hugs*
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
*hugs back*. Thanks.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
Thanks for the virtual snuggles. I needed that.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 05:26 am (UTC)
I'm so, so sorry. I can't imagine how that must feel. That you are grieving for this child and his parents says so much for you, though it pains me that you're hurting. You sound like such a wonderful doctor. One who cares, one who puts her heart and soul into her work. You did everything you could. You're the kind of doctor I want for my own child.

*huge hugs*
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your kind words. It really does mean so much. *hugs back*
Jan. 2nd, 2012 06:33 am (UTC)
Oh, how sad. Poor little thing. I can't even imagine.

And I don't know how you do it as a doctor. But you do good and that's amazing and wonderful and you helped, because if he'd died without them knowing why and then they found out, they would have blamed themselves forever.

Hope it's better.
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Thanks so much.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
If you ever DON'T feel such sorrow for such a tragedy then that would be the worrying part. Throughout your career this will happen again, more than once, but as long as you know you've done all you can then you must learn to be satisfied with that and grieve their loss. Think about the women and children you have saved and will save in the future.

This young couple will eventually recover; they may never forget but will move on with their lives and probably have more children.
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
I appreciate your encouraging words. Thanks so much.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
Oh my poor friend, what A thing to happen. *hugs you tight*
Jan. 5th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
Thanks. I needed that. *hugs back*
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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )