I had to tell the parents and extended family of a 2 week old child that their little baby was dying, if not already dead. The child was being kept essentially alive by our ventilator. Granted, there was no way to tell if the child could actually breathe on her own until we actually turn off the ventilator but she’s a 2 week old and brain death exams on 2 week olds are hard, and very rarely do they ever turn out positive even though the child has global ischemia and will never be able to get off the ventilator. How does one deliver news like that? Worse. How does a parent receive news like that? How do they process it? How do they learn to accept it? And how do they learn to let go…if ever? Worse, how does one deal with it when their 2 week old was perfectly healthy just 24 hours ago? It was an accident. It was unpredictable. Unexpected.
And then there is the long process of learning to deal with the possibility that your child might die. They have a disease process that will eventually kill them. Or they have a disease for which the treatment is so brutal it might kill them. But you have time. Time to process. Time to learn to deal with it. And hope. The hope that they might make it.
Yet. Even with time. Even with hope. When the end comes, I’m not sure which is easier. They are both devastatingly hard in their own way. I don’t know how a parent deals with it. How a family deals with it. I had to deal with both such types of deaths yesterday. Well, one not so directly. But it was so draining I think I almost quit. Yet it also made me realise that I do want to be a doctor.