I stood near the door of the ICU gathering my thoughts. I knew that I would be bombarded by questions the moment I walked out. I understood how anxious they had been for the last one week. It was not easy for any family to see their child in a state of coma with little hope for revival immediately after giving birth to a baby.
They had been hesitant to consult me until it became evident that the pregnant girls’ condition was worsening. Her blood pressure refused to come down even as the due date drew nearer. Her body had started swelling up because of fluid accumulation leading to edema. I wonder why her gynecologist didn’t realize the criticality of the situation and insist on a premature delivery!
I took control of the situation despite knowing that I was mostly fighting a lost battle. Getting a team together in a Government hospital of a Tier-2 city wasn’t an easy job. No gynecologist was ready to take her case initially because of the risks involved. So I had no option but to encash on my personal equations within the fraternity to ensure that she gets the best facilities despite limited means.
A week back, her c-section had led to a successful delivery. The families danced with joy as the bundle of happiness arrived in the form of a baby girl. I left the hospital around 2am knowing that God had helped me win a race against life. Both the mother and baby had been doing fine.
But my happiness was short-lived. At 6am in the morning, when my phone screen buzzed with a call from the hospital’s land-line number, I knew there was bad news. My fears were justified as I was told how the new mother had concussions followed by a heart attack. She had slipped into the comatose state. I rushed to see her in the hospital ICU. Except for her eyelids, no part of her body responded.
For the last one week, she had been on life support system. I saw the families crumbling in front of my eyes, trying to fathom the uncertain future that lay ahead. It pained me the most to think of the plight of the newborn. Every time I saw the baby, I was reminded of my own two-year-old.
But last evening, all hopes died as I examined her one last time. Her body and soul had both ceased to be with us. But it was her parents’ anniversary and I didn’t want them to remember the day for the devastating loss forever. So I chose to keep the bad news to myself, writhing in agony the whole night.
Today morning, I knew that it was time to tell them the truth. I had gradually tried preparing the families for the inevitable. I faced them with an expressionless face as the words came out, “She is no more”. My words shattered the last straw of hope for the families. I could see her mother clutch onto her father’s arm as uncontrollable sobs escaped their mouths. Her husband had fainted.
For the last thirteen years of being a doctor, I have realized that the toughest aspect of my profession was to keep personal relationships separate from professional insights. As a critical care intensivist, I had always known that her chances of survival were minimal. But as her elder cousin brother, I wanted to believe in the power of miracles. Unfortunately, the logical doctor won over the emotional brother in the climax of this story.
I knew that neither my uncle and aunt nor my parents or my cousins’ marital family were in a condition to think beyond their loss at the moment. But there was another life, a newborn in the NICU (neonatal ICU) who needed extreme care. Until someone else from the family could step in, I had decided that the baby was going to be my responsibility. After instructing the nurse to complete the official formalities, I walked away from the family, pushing back my tears to take up the duty of a doting maternal uncle since at that point everyone else was grieving.
Authors Note – This story would best be described as fiction based on the real events that shattered my marital family this July. I dedicate it to my doctor husband and every medical professional who put their personal loss behind to take care of their professional commitment. Thank you for keeping our faith in humanity alive.