Take the Plunge

October 21, 2009
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I worked my way down the tiny infant’s body, refusing to miss a single thing. This procedure had to go well. The little girl’s parents had so much trouble conceiving and now the baby can’t breathe. This baby was likely their only chance of ever raising a child. Eve had given birth 8 weeks early, which meant that the baby’s lungs weren’t fully developed and she didn’t have a great chance of survival. But I was determined. Just then a nurse walked in with a mask covering her mouth for sterilization purposes and said, above the beeping machine, “The mother is in recovery.” I continued, with a pump in my hand, inflating the infant’s lungs for as long as I could before I had to put her on a machine, which basically was only to say goodbye. We didn’t put babies on a machine very often though. We just call the time of death, before the parents can get too attached. That had already happened with this family though.

Now the machine above with an irregular beat started beating too fast. I ordered a nurse to give the baby some medicine to slow it down. Before she was able to do so, the machine suddenly stopped, showing only a flat line. My heart skipped a beat as I realized we were losing her. Too fast. At this point, there wasn’t much that I could do for her. I did the first thing that came to my mind. CPR. When nothing happened, I switched to the paddles. I tried 3 times with the paddles and still nothing. The doctor assisting me started to call the time of death. I stopped him at “Time,” and said, “No—I am doing more CPR.” He watched for almost an hour as I continued. Finally he stopped me and said, “It’s too late. Nothing has happened yet and it has been almost an hour. We have to call it.” I stopped, and knew he was right. I lowered my mask and stared at the clock for as long as I could. I said slowly, “Time of death—2047.” I started out of the room, devastated. I turned around to see one more glance of the innocent face on the table. I willed her chest to move, but knew that it wouldn’t happen. I blinked back tears and though to myself, “I just can’t save them all.” I walked out of the dead room, not wanting time to move forward. I had to tell the parents now. My friend pulled me aside as I was about to go into Eve’s hospital room. She whispered, “Hey—you okay? I heard about the Spencer baby.” I looked at her and replied, “I’m on my way to tell them now.” She watched me intently, knowing how hard it was for me to handle losing a baby. I continued, “It just never gets any easier to tell the parents of a 2 hour old baby that I couldn’t save their child.” She told me to take the plunge and when it was over with, to try to comfort them. I clenched my jaw, knowing that she had never had a case quite like any of mine. All of the kids in her profession usually lived.

As I approached Eve’s door, I took a shuddering breath, preparing what I would say. I walked in slowly and realized that I didn’t have to say anything at all. When they saw my face, they knew exactly what I was coming to tell them.





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