Tuesday, June 29, 2010

date of death.

One enters the medical field knowing that as much as your top priority is to help patients get better, sometimes death is imminent. In my specialty, technology has given us the gift to keep even the tiniest miracles alive. Ventilators assist damaged lungs. Dialysis replaces damaged kidneys. Medications can ease pain but it is these great advancements that consequently put us in incredible predicaments of not knowing when to stop providing care. How are we to decide that the interventions are causing more harm than good? Where do we even begin to define the quality of life of a little angel sweetly swaddled in a bassinet trapped inside a body paralyzed by faulty DNA?

It is never an easy decision... one that ultimately the parents have to make. The decision that furthering care is only prolonging the inevitable. That while we can sustain a life, she will not actually live one day of it. How do you decide? How do you set the date of death?

All cases in the NICU are super sad but every once in a while, there are certain patient's stories that hit me harder than others; mostly the ones without the happy endings. The ones that I can't rationalize in my head that it is okay. The ones that I find myself at the bedside constantly asking myself why bad things happen to good people? Why the sweetest families that truly appreciate all the care provided for them and their baby seem to always have the worst outcomes.

I think I have cried every day at work for the past month observing a situation you can only hope you yourself will never have to face; the ultimate test of strength. Strength as a mom. Strength as a wife. Strength as a person. The strength to let go. The strength to overcome. The strength to move on.

As I left the hospital tonight, I shed my usual tears but this time it was tears of relief, knowing you will finally be in a better place. You touched the hearts of many people in your short little life. Rest in peace, baby girl.

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