Thursday, March 09, 2017

Tiny, Perfect, Alive Baby

I woke up Sunday morning feeling wonderfully refreshed, even though my cell phone alarm hadn’t gone off yet. I felt so awake that I considered getting out of bed early, and then there was another Code Blue, which ended my deliberations. When I looked at my phone to see what time it was, for the tally sheet we have to fill out, I saw that it was 9 a.m., hence the great feeling of refreshment. My phone’s battery had died in the night.

I don’t think I’ve had even one Code Blue during an on-call shift at this campus before, let alone two. This one occurred in labor and delivery and the subject was a woman younger than 35 who had been transferred from a hospital in Reno. I was sent to provide support to her husband, who appeared at least externally to be calm and also not at all inclined to talk to me, so I just sat quietly next to him. I strongly suspected that if I told him I could stay or go, he would tell me to go, so I didn’t give him the option, though if he had said of his own accord that he’d like to be alone, I would of course have gone.

From time to time, a doctor came with an update. We learned that the baby had been surgically delivered and, though premature, seemed to be doing well. After a while, the baby was transferred to the infant care nursery and we went to see her. She was beautiful. Tiny but perfect. The nurses said that she was a good size for her age.

Then we were called back to labor and delivery and shown into an empty patient room, a bad sign; we had been sitting in the hallway earlier. The news got worse and worse, and then one doctor said they were running out of options because there were two things wrong with the mother, and treating one exacerbated the other. The father became visibly very dismayed, and then the doctors providing the update suddenly ran out of the room.

After a few minutes, a doctor came back in and told the father that his wife had passed away. Three of us sat with him, all touching him. One doctor, in reaching for the father’s knee, rested her arm on my knee, so I put my hand on her back, and the four of us just sat there, one joined physical unit, three of us silent, one crying and shaking.

After awhile, the father was taken to see his wife. I followed him into the operating room, which was in tremendous disarray, smelling of blood and with blood everywhere, including on the shoes of several members of the care team, several of whom were in tears. When the father left the room, so did all but three care team members, including myself. I offered a brief prayer for the now-gone mother.

In the hallway, there were two groups of eight or ten nurses apiece, visibly upset. The spiritual care department offers a debriefing session after Code Blues, and I also got a call right then saying the nurses planned to do a debriefing of their own at the end of their shift that day, and wanted a chaplain to attend. That occurred after my shift was over, but I learned the next day that 40 staff members had attended.
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