In the midst of it, though, somehow my mind pulled me back to two days earlier and a 23 weeker in the NICU. He weighed barely more than 500 grams and was trying to die. After one and a half days of efforts by my partners and me, I was willing to let him succeed at it. We had tried everything. On the oscillator ventilator, his pH, a measure of the amount of acid in the blood, was less than 7.0, a level incompatible with life if it continued for long. I switched him to a conventional ventilator, thinking he couldn't do worse on it. I was wrong.
Mother, though, wasn't ready to have him die. Eighteen and single, she was terrified and trying her best to deny the situation. I gently suggested she come to the NICU and hold her baby, telling her that many mothers regret it later if they don't take the opportunity to do so. I also suggested that we might want to take him off the ventilator and have him in a private room with her while he died. The thought of it - the entire situation, really - was more than she could bear. At one point in our conversation, without saying a word she picked up the phone and dialed it. She spoke a few words into it and then handed it to me. " Who is this," I asked before taking the phone. "My granny," she replied.
Many people in the comments section of this blog have written about rights of parents and how they should be kept informed and given options about their babies' care. I agree. I like it when parents are interested and knowledgeable, or at least make an attempt to be. But we must also acknowledge that some parents are unable or unwilling to be their child's advocate, too scared or immature or somehow psychologically or emotionally incapable of doing the right thing. Who, then, should be the baby's advocate? We can quibble about who it should be, but in reality it is me.
Late in the afternoon mom came around and held her baby a good long while as he passed away. Her family and the baby's father came to be with her and in the end it was the best we and they could do with a bad situation. An aunt thanked me and even offered words of comfort to me, saying she knew we did everything we could.
Vibrations from a huge bass drum rocked me out of my reverie. A Blue Man was hitting the drum with the biggest beater I have ever seen. Another Blue Man was drumming on what looked like plumbing pipes, and the third Blue Man was eyeing giant rolls of toilet paper that would soon come cascading down over the crowd. The 23 weeker was out of my mind, and I was glad. It's not that I don't like my job. It's just that I like being off and having fun more.