Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
- TITLE: A Disastrous Delivery
By Emily Gibson
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ideal, but they were my teachers.
I was finishing my last on-call night on my obstetrical rotation at a large military hospital. I had delivered 99 babies during my 6 week rotation. My supervising doctors had kept me busy on that last day trying to get me to the *100th* delivery as bragging rights for what great teachers they were. It was a meaningless goal yet they kept cheering me on, and looking for patients for me to deliver.
After an exhausting day and two hours sleep, I was shaken awake at 4:30 AM by a nurse saying I was needed right away. A woman had arrived in labor only 30 minutes before and though it was her first baby, she was pushing and ready to deliver. My 100th had arrived.
The delivery room lights were blinding; I was barely coherent when I greeted this almost-mother and father as she pushed, with the baby's head crowning. I knew the drill. Gown up, gloves on, sit between her propped up legs. Amniotic fluid and blood dribbled out and splashed on my shoes and the sweet salty smell permeated everything. I was concentrating so hard on doing every step correctly, I didn't think to notice whether the baby's heart beat had been monitored.
The head crowned, and sucking out the baby's mouth, I thought its skin color looked dusky, so checked quickly for a cord around the neck, thinking it may be tight. No cord found, so the next push brought the baby out into my lap, bluish purple, floppy, not responding. I quickly clamped and cut the cord and rubbed the baby vigorously with a towel. Nothing, no response. A nurse swept in and grabbed the baby and ran over to the pediatric heat lamp and bed and started resuscitation. Chaos ensued. The mother and father began to cry, the pediatric and obstetrical physicians came running, hair askew, eyes still sleepy, but suddenly shocked awake with the sight of a blue floppy baby.
I sat stunned. I tried to review in my foggy mind what had gone wrong and realized at no time had I heard this baby's heart beat from the time I entered the room. No nurse could remember listening to the baby after the first check when they had arrived in active labor 30 minutes earlier. The heart beat was fine then, but because the staff were more caught up in getting me my 100th delivery, it had not been checked again.
It was not an excuse, and it was not acceptable. It was a terrible mistake that had become mine because I participated as part of the team.
This baby had died sometime in the previous 30 minutes. It was not apparent why until the placenta delivered; obviously it had prematurely separated from the uterine wall so the circulation to the baby had been compromised. Potentially, with continuous monitoring, this would have been detected and the baby delivered in an emergency C section in time.
The pediatrician worked for another 20 minutes on the little lifeless baby. His parents held each other, sobbing. I had no idea what to say as a witness to such agony. I said I was so sorry, so sad they lost their baby, felt so badly there had been no way to know sooner. The doctors around me said nothing whatsoever other than “it was an accident of nature.” I knew better, mortified at such callousness. There was no comfort for me as I struggled with my guilt.
I went on as a family physician to deliver hundreds of babies during my career but could never forget the baby that might have had a chance. This baby should be in his 30's with children of his own, his parents now proud and loving grandparents.
I wonder if I'll meet him again someday, this little soul that almost was, if I'm ever forgiven enough to share a piece of heaven with innocent babies who never got to draw a breath.
I know my forgiveness will be a gift of grace accepted with the gratitude of the guilty. And I must forgive the teachers whose error I shared.
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