Morning section day - around noon I headed back to do a C-section with
The World's Fastest Physician ("I'm going to have to let you do things
eventually, aren't I?"). Twenty minutes later, I walked out to a huddle
of nursing staff.
Triage room contained a patient a month shy of her due date whose last
reported fetal movement was over twelve hours ago. "Having trouble
getting heart tones." Intern on OB call has only ever touched an
ultrasound machine twice. Ultrasonography tech is on her way. I walk in
the room and introduce myself to a tearful and clearly terrified woman
with a full-moon belly, her husband. We turn the lights down. And I
watch as a motionless baby scrolls past, with a motionless heart, and I
feel myself go cold and trembling, and you have to say it. Someone has
I'm sorry. Your baby has died.
And moments later our ultrasonography technician comes in, and she
doesn't waste words or questions, taking the report from me, probe
flickering over a belly now quivering with sobs. Color flow confirms no
cardiac activity. She's gone as quickly as she came.
And I'm standing in a room with a woman I've known for ten minutes,
telling her some of the worst news I can possibly imagine, and all I
can say is "I'm so sorry." And she looks at her husband and sobs, and
her mother is there at a run, and all the medical degrees, all the
education, all the years of experience in the world can't change that
moment where the only thing I am good for is to hand over the box of
Kleenex and let her wring my hand until the fingers feel like they're
melding into one.
And I can't help in the moment but to cry myself, feel the raw terror
that someday I will be this woman, and even now to wonder why things
like this should ever come to pass. It's a question without answers,
and one that leaves me hopeless and drowning in the test of faith.