For the life of a Child
There are some patients you never forget, it doesn't matter how long you've practiced medicine, how many patients you've seen, they're always there. You may not remember their names but if you close your eyes, the faces are instantly called to mind.
She was one of those, as was her son, and the faces of both haunt me to this day. I remember when she came in, a college student, she was pregnant and had been stabbed. She was determined not to allow us to do a cesarian to deliver her child, and I would have been willing to honor her wishes had not the life of her baby been at risk. Nothing I could say could convince her to change her mind, all that mattered to her was her comfort, her safety, and she was willing to allow her child to die to spare herself any risk.
At first I think I was stunned, I couldn't imagine how anyone could be so selfish as to put their own life above the life of their child, but, she did just that. Even as the baby's vitals began to fail she refused to budge and threats of legal intervention did nothing to change her mind.
We become doctors to save lives, and here we were forced to stand and watch this infant die because his mother wanted to place her own safety above the worth of his life. The delivery of his lifeless body is one of the things that still haunts me, the knowledge that his death was preventable my badge of guilt to wear.
She refused to look at him after he was delivered, she couldn't even honor his memory by giving him that merit of respect, and that to me was her ultimate act of selfishness. I can only hope the memories of those hours leading up to his delivery remain with her as they do with me. Maybe in time she'll understand that she lost more then her son on that day, maybe she'll see that she lost her soul too.