Trigger warning. Loss of a child
I’m a proud respiratory therapist!
I worked in our state’s largest neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) (I’m Canadian). The healthiest newborns up to 1000 km away were taken to our center for the care of our specialists. And this is the healthiest of patients, the youngest who need respiratory therapy.
It was my job every day to bring these little, helpless creatures to life. Although I spent my time perfecting each breath, there were days when I was giving them their last.
For some parents, this is premature. Prenatal scans revealed something extraordinary, experts confirmed, and a plan was made to take us to our hospital for childbirth. For others, it is a heartbreaking shock when their baby is born. However, everyone knows that if the child requires that level of care, it is not good.
Congenital heart defects, congenital diaphragmatic hernias, intrauterine growth retardation, infections, chromosomal abnormalities, traumatic births, or simply the fact that they debuted prematurely are some of the reasons for admitting children to the NICU.
Each child with its own characteristics. Each disease with its own respiratory complications.
One of the responsibilities of RT at NICU is to manage the life support devices needed to keep our sick babies alive. For these patients, everything we do revolves around optimizing our breathing. Detailed changes in precise ventilation settings, blood samples, removal of secretions from the airways, delivery of respiratory medications, chest physiotherapy, etc.
However, it is our duty to remove the support of life when nothing else can be done.
It was obviously the healthiest kids who demanded the most of my attention. Out of necessity, to ensure that everything under my control is perfect զ devoid of human emotions, I spent hours at your child’s bedside. Whether it was day or night, I was there.
I have been so lucky to be with so many families, as you have spent many hours in bed. Tell me about your other children or how you found the name of your new addition. I would tell you where I grew up or how I became RT.
None of us looked away from the precious cherub among us, we tied it.
There is never a child worthy of such a result, never a family. A doctor sitting next to you to tell you that we have exhausted all our options, that if the child continues, the child will not have a quality of life, that we only prolong the suffering. It makes me sick to write it. But tragically it happens.
When the time came, your family gathered in a small hospital room. A room that once hoped would now hold nothing but heartache and a few precious memories.
Our team of medical staff planned the process in incredible detail to ensure you feel comfortable knowing that your baby is safe.
When it’s my turn to take the last step in taking care of your baby, someone will confirm that you are ready to move on. With your sign I will carry your baby’s last breath. I would remove all the pipes and wires from their clean bodies. I would take your child to your devoted arms, exactly where they belonged.
Although I felt a strong connection with you, I left the room in silence. You did not need an audience. There were no words that could offer you any comfort. Only then could I give you space. A place to memorize every inch of your baby, a farewell area.
I was hiding my tears then. I stayed strong for you. I needed you to know, no doubt you were making the right decision in the best interests of your child. Because you did.
Now that time has passed, I want you to know that I was heartbroken too. You should never have to make that decision. You should never have to miss your baby. But your strength will always be admired.
Since then I have become a parent myself, thinking about what you have been through. You have shown the most sincere act of love to your child. You put all their pain and suffering on their shoulders so that you can rest in peace. And my wish for you is that you also find peace.
I will never forget your angel or the day they acquired their wings.
Years later, I still carry the memory of your baby with me.
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