“Every one of these patients should terrify you,” the fellow said. I thought he was just being dramatic.
Thinking back to January 2020, I recalled the whispers throughout the hospital of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, mere minutes from my home institution. Aside from my perspective as a pediatrician, I was also forced to confront my own anxieties regarding exposure to this virus as an adult living with repaired congenital heart disease.
They said to stop compressions. We all agreed. This baby had no life when she was born, and we had fought for twenty whole minutes with our arsenal of medicine to give her life.
My senior and I had been on night float together for a few weeks. That night, the dimmed lights of the hospital corridors spilled into the workroom which was lit only by my computer screen, but that was enough. Despite the few months that I had been there as an intern, I could describe each inch of this room with my eyes closed.
It was a busy Friday afternoon in the pediatric intensive care unit. The prior evening, he began having profuse lower gastrointestinal bleeding necessitating urgent transfer to the intensive care unit.
Here I am, come and get me! A playful provocation we have all used with much more than literal meaning as a mantra. But going through the rigors, chills and metaphorical bacteremia of medical education, I lost some of the pieces that made me confident to be myself.
I waited for nine months to meet you. / I know that one night I loved a woman and then you, a blackberry of cells, found your place in her fertile garden and you grew there
“Good morning, I’m Dr. Watt and I’m going to be taking care of you today.”
The faint glow that is the light at the end of the tunnel hits my face as I realize that intern year is almost over. One would think that having been through the personal loss I have — losing two beloved older brothers at a young age — that intern year would be more than manageable. Yet this past year has been, for me, a chaotic roller coaster ride.
The baby’s hat is bright orange, knit with vertical ribbing to mimic a pumpkin’s ridges, and topped with a tiny green stem. The cheeks below it bulge in perfect crescents. I turn to the mother to ask if she made the hat herself. Her eyes don’t leave the muted cartoons bouncing across the television screen as she mumbles, “The nurse or someone gave it to her.”
Nine months of sabbatical / I meet them in the airport lobby / of the newborn nursery.
For children who have been reunited with their parents, though, the damage may have already been done. Let’s discuss some of the key consequences associated with parental-child separation in detail, starting with the notion of toxic stress.