A relatively rough one at that, and it’s time for the weekend to start. Nothing overly huge and devastating, when I look back at it, but each little thing just kept piling up until the break point was almost reached.
I’m now a one-hamster family. I know that the little critters don’t have a forever-long lifespan, but a year is a bit young for one to just up and drop without warning. She was running full-speed on the wheel one night with her sister, but then a day or two later, I realized that I hadn’t seen the two of them at the same time for a couple of days. I went to investigate and found what I didn’t want to know. So ThingOne is getting more petting and a few more treats, even if her little pea-sized brain doesn’t make the connection as to why.
It’s been a bad few days at work for everyone this week. There have been some communication breakdowns at work lately that are getting more and more egregious, and they’re to the point where people are going to start getting hurt, if they haven’t already. We’re too tight-staffed to be sloppy or to let things slide, so when things happen, feelings get bruised and are difficult to soothe (and they should be…we feel strongly for our patients and are willing to fight for them).
Doing what I do, there is no easy way to deal with bad news. Not for us (be it the doctors, the nurses, or others on the staff) and most definitely not for the families whose lives are turned upside down. Parents seem to know as soon as one of us walks into the room with bad news just what it is that we have to tell them. There’s something in the way we walk, the expression on our faces, or the way we hold ourselves in preparation for delivering news of this sort that alerts them to it. Sometimes the tears come before we can even get a word out and half of the discussion comes in trying to calm a parent enough to hear what it is that needs to be said. Other times, the parents refuse to hear the words, to listen, or to engage in the discussion at all. It’s as though their worries and fears have deafened them, made them unable to cope with the news, even for the sake of their child.
In some ways though, having a conversation with the parents of a child with a known chronic illness can be more difficult, especially if they’re not prepared for their child to have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Children are very resilient and can live with many debilitating illnesses for years without ever giving it a second thought, but at some point, they decompensate and end up in my treatment room in extremis. There comes a point where we have to ask how far a parent wants for us to go in resuscitating their child, and if they’ve never been asked that question before, it’s a shock. If, as for many families in our area, there is a religious concern with “life support”, it becomes an even bigger issue, especially when the question is raised emergently. It’s not a decision to be made lightly or under pressure, so I cannot think of a worse time and place to be trying to make it (especially if you haven’t ever been told to think about it before) than with a doctor standing there in front of you saying, “Your child is very sick, close to dying. If we have to put him on life support, to take over breathing for him with a machine, do you want us to do that?” And let me tell you…being that doctor, asking that question…to see the fear, the terror in the parents’ eyes as they realize what I’m asking, it kills a little part of me each time.
Sorta’ puts my hamster into perspective…but I think a little glass of whisky may be in order tonight.