D.O.A.


I can handle the abusive drunks. I can handle the tweekers who are “talkin’ to the devil.” I can handle the annoying drug seekers who are being seen for their weekly “dental pain” fix. But what I can’t seem to handle are the “walk in the door with my dead baby” parents.

I understand this was baby number 8 or 9. I know you can’t remember which since you don’t have custody of any of your other children, and sure, that makes it harder to keep track. And, yeah, she was only 2 months old; you hadn’t quite gotten used to having her around. She still hadn’t quite fit into the household routine.

Now, I know, she was a great baby because she slept through the night. And, yeah, who hasn’t put their baby to bed and then not checked on them for 15 hours. As long as they’re not crying, they’re fine, right? Yes, yes, I understand it was quite the family party and no one woke up before noon… or one… or two in the afternoon. I’m sure the baby was safe and sound on the bed with her full bottle from last night.

As for medical care, sure, being weighed once at the WIC office and being told that she’s “nice and healthy” is exactly the same as being seen by a pediatrician. It’s almost as good as getting vaccinated. I know that you’re busy and just couldn’t quite get in to have her seen at the pediatrician’s office, but I am sure all of your child’s health needs were met during that visit so you could get your much-earned government support.

Now, I have to let you know that I will be calling the local police, the coroner’s office, and Child Protective Services. They’re going to be asking a lot of questions. And, I know several of the maternity nurses are going to want some answers, too, when they find out that the “meth-addicted, breeds like a rabbit, that CPS was told about” at the time of your child’s birth is now bringing back that same child in not quite the same condition as when she left.

But seriously now, I don’t mind doing a peri-mortem exam in the E.D. with the coroner’s official. I’ve done physical exams on lots of two month olds. Granted, they are not usually wearing wet, soiled onesies. They usually aren’t stone cold with obvious lividity set in. They generally are not brought in wrapped in foul, cigarette and eau de dog scented blankets. But, I am a professional. I can maintain a clinical distance while performing my duties.

I am good at my job. And, I can make it through the end of my shift. And, through the next shift. That is… until I finally get home… until the night goes quiet… until I start to wonder what good I am doing at all… until I try to go to sleep with your daughter’s half open eyes and opened mouth still burnt in my brain as if asking me silently, “why?”

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  1. #1 by delana - January 10th, 2012 at 23:26

    I totally get it, which is sad. I was professional when Mediflight showed up to fly out the 3 month old “failure to thrive” baby on an apnea monitor who was born addicted to meth, and only made a pitiful half human cry when we started an IO because he was so dehydrated we could get a vein, and no…he didn’t cry tears, but I did for him. And where was Mom? She was dropped him off and ran to the store to get cigarettes while we tried to save his life.

  2. #2 by betty - January 10th, 2012 at 23:44

    This is one of those things I don’t get with God, why he allows this when there are perfectly good, God honoring and God fearing couples that would love to have a baby and can’t have one and we have these people who breed at the drop of a hat and don’t appreciate the precious gift they are given. Yet I trust he is in control. I can only rest assured this little one is much loved in the arms of her Savior who will never let her go and will watch over her and will never let her go. Yet I’m thinking what you had to do, even the toughest of what you had to do, you did it with dignity and respect for that precious little one…….

  3. #3 by Lee - January 22nd, 2012 at 13:09

    Tough gig Veronica, those images often stay with you long after the shift is over. I cope by treating each case individually, by not judging the patient or their alleged care givers. What is more tragic or sad, the death of the 2 month old, or if she had lived and presented to you 20 years later in a meth induced psychosis? Not for me to judge. I just turn up and treat each case as it comes and do all I can for the patient. Sometimes, all I can do is complete a life extinct form with more love than the 2 month old has ever experience in their short life.

  4. #4 by Brian Rike - February 1st, 2012 at 03:50

    It’s definitely scary when you see the type of people out there in the world – working in the ED tends to make this obvious and super disheartening at times. I love freedom but, sure seems like we should require a license to have children? Maybe this would have prevented the child from getting their neck caught in a chain link dog leash while mom & dad are drinking their booze or the baby that “fell out the car window” with skull fractures and ICH.

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