Whenever I talk about my love for child health, and my intention to pursue it as a career, I get this kind of response:
“Oh, I could never work with kids. It just breaks my heart to see them suffer!”
I don’t get it.
I mean, maybe I’m a cold-hearted bitch, but I don’t think so.
I hold children down and stick them with needles, because I know it’s necessary to make them better. I scrub burn wounds and I encourage parents to wait outside because I know they’ll cry and/or likely try to assault me for hurting their babies.
I also use topical anaesthetic cream liberally and question IV lines when I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. I’m liberal with analgesia prescriptions because pain is more harmful than useful in a hospital setting.
I see malnourished and abused children, and sometimes I bite my tongue raw to keep my temper.
I’ve told mothers that their children had cancer, and I’ve told them that their kids would be developmentally delayed for the rest of their lives. I’ve told them that their kids will live, but that they will be long-term patients.
(Thankfully rarely) I’ve informed parents that their baby was no longer alive.
* * *
But I give more high-fives than I give pain.
I get gummy smiles and snotty laughter and the wide-based gait of children waddling around my legs.
I call in the social workers and the dieticians and we (try to) address systems, not just lapses in judgment.
I get to pick up a crying infant and feel it relax, because although human contact isn’t medicine, sometimes it’s just what you need in that moment. Both of you.
I get to discharge more patients than I ever have to declare demised.
When I tell a parent that their child is disabled, I get to tell them about disabled people who don’t only live, but THRIVE.
I get to admit a shocked child, and see her running around the ward two days later.
I get to witness the purity of the human spirit first-hand.
I tread among the future.
Paediatrics is the great success-story of 20th century medicine, and I rarely cry for it.
* * *
Adult medicine? Oh I couldn’t. I’d cry all day.