Monday, September 12, 2005

Melancholy Monday

I lost my first patient today. And while this day was inevitable for someone who works in my profession, it’s something that I wasn’t prepared for. Such an overwhelming stream of emotions flows in the room of a child who has just passed away. Some people weep, some just stand in silence, some fall to their knees. And you can’t help but think that it’s unfair, it’s unfair that a family must feel the fullness of their grief and yet the emptiness of their loss, it’s unfair that a child so young was asked to replace childhood naivety with the abstract concept of critical illness. It’s difficult to work in a profession where you are forced to accept that some children can’t be saved, and yet not let the fear of loss cast a shadow on those children who are still living. But even after days like today, I can look at the work that I am doing and be thankful for the chance to be included in the lives of some extraordinary children, even if that invitation is only for a limited time.

I have the unique opportunity to hold infants on my chest whose mothers have abandoned them and be present for those moments of peace, and I have the opportunity to hold the hands of children going through chemotherapy and be present for those moments of anguish. I have the unique opportunity to see the look in a child’s eyes when they hear that they are going home, as well as see the pain as they inquire about whether or not their disease will eventually kill them. I have the unique opportunity to experience emotions in their rawest, purest, untainted forms. I have the unique opportunity to be present when lives enter the world, as well as bear witness when they quietly exit.

At the end of the day, I walk outside, and take a deep breath, and there are good days when I am filled with utter joy, and there are days like today where I am filled with grief. But either way, I am always full, and it is that fullness that makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.