When I was in medical school I spent a month in the pediatric intensive care unit. While I was there I cared for a little baby boy with Tetrology of Fallot ( serious congenital heart disease). He actually wasn’t that sick compared to most of the kids in the ICU but he essentially lived there. I never knew why his family wasn’t around but they weren’t ever there.
I fell in love with him. Any time I didn’t have something else to do I’d go in his room and play with him. At night I’d sit in the rocking chair and rock him. I can still remember how soft his dark smooth skin was and the feel of his soft curly head. I remember how he would nuzzle his face into my neck and fall deeply asleep in my arms. The nurses would all scold me and tell me that I was “spoiling him”. They would tell me that when I left when my rotation was done someone else was going to have to rock him since I’d gotten him so used to sleeping that way.
They didn’t fool me though. Like most kids who end up living in the hospital due to serious chronic medical conditions or poor social situations or a combination of both, the nurses were just as in love with him as I was. He may not have had a mother who chose to be there caring for him but he had charmed the unit and had a whole bunch of foster mamas who wanted to love on him.
Looking back I realize that I wasn’t anywhere near purely selfless in the time I spent with him. Holding a sweet chunky drowsy baby was an oasis in the middle of a lot of sadness and heartache. Maybe I was a bit of normal for him that month of his life. He was certainly that for me.
I wish I could tell you what happened to him. But the truth is the rotation ended and I moved on. I hope his heart was fixed and the harder things to fix in his life also were repaired. But I don’t know.
What made me think of him today was reading this post by 6 Year Med. It made me cry this morning when I read it. Go check it out. You won’t be sorry.