Monday, July 18, 2011

Nothing funny in this one, folks. Sorry.

So I'm not ignoring this blog.  I'm really not.  The problem is that I have this amazing new job that I adore.  It's not taking up all my time or anything - hell, I work 12 hour shifts, so I have four days off a week.  I have lots of free time.

I have to let you in on a little secret: people who work in hospitals are terrible, terrible people.  Not really.  It's just that with the work we do, we have to make jokes about it.  We have to complain about patients who refuse to die and make fun of people who have really crazy illnesses or injuries.  We have to do this because our work environment is kind of horrible.

It's almost worse since I work in a pediatric hospital.  Which means I work with sick children.  So when we complain about train wreck patients who are almost certainly going to die, we are talking about someone's child.  When we make jokes about medical conditions and the horrible lives our patients are going to have if they ever leave, we are cracking jokes about how these people are going to live for the rest of their lives.

But the thing is we have to be like that.  Because in the last three weeks, nine of my patients have died.  Which means nine children died.  I was there for three of the deaths.  One was a rather peaceful affair - the parents decided to withdraw support, so they were able to gather all of their family together, and the little girl died in her mother's arms.  Quiet and beautiful and heart-wrenching.  One was a horrendous, messy affair - we worked like fiends, trying to save this kid.  But nothing worked.  And when we all straggled out of that room, covered in sweat and blood, the only sound from the room was the low, anguished moaning of the mother, holding her child for the last time.  The last was the strangest of all - the little boy looked at his mother and his nurse, who were chatting in the corner, and said "It's time for me to go with the angels.  I love you all very much."  And then he just... died.

So we have to make jokes.  We have to say things that sound horrible and heartless to others, because if we didn't, we would all lose our minds.  It is our job to be caring and compassionate, yet for our sanity we have to maintain a level of detachment from our patients that seems inhuman sometimes.  But every second we spend with these kids, they wiggle their way beneath our armor.  We empathize with them, with their families.  And when the unthinkable happens, we grieve and mourn alongside them.  Only we can't show it.  We have to put on a professional face and move on to the next child, the next family, the next heartbreak.

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