Rest in Peace, Baby Boy

The law says that a dead body may not be left unattended until handed over to a coroner. I stared at the tiny grey body swaddled in blankets, waiting for the grieved mother to say her goodbyes. When she arrived, I wanted to cry with her. But who am I to cry for a baby I never knew, a child I did not bear?

He was seven days old. He weighed 1600 grams. He was severely bradycardic.

His mother brought him to Emergency because she knew his breathing was not satisfactory.

He stopped breathing while I was auscultating his chest.

He was my first resuscitation.

I think he should not have died. I think if we had located an appropriate mask-size earlier he would have been okay. Or if the new suction was not so difficult to operate. Or if he had been delivered to Neonatal Emergency instead of Paediatric Emergency.

I remember his tired eyes moments before his heart stopped. I remember the doctor yelling, “Mommy, wait outside!” while he was intubating.

He was given adrenaline intravenously, intraosseously, and via the ET tube.

We saw him become grey moments before they called it.

His ribs were broken from the compressions – but that we could have managed. If only his tired little heart would have started up again.

Mothers should not lose their children.

I have to remind myself that this is not about me. Not my grief to claim. I don’t get to toss around at night about this.

But that is easier said than done.


  1. Adam Tucker says:

    I am so sorry to read this, yet at the same time, so glad. Beautifully done.

    1. Thanks for the boost, Adam.

  2. jennduroy says:

    This just shows no matter how hard we try, physicians have emotions and grief for others keeping us human. Bless that baby and may God watch over his family.

    1. Thanks Jen. I’ve been thinking of his mom and dad a lot, I do hope they will get sufficient support for their grief.

  3. So, so sad. I’ve used that phrase “it’s not about me” before to describe how I deal with difficult situations in medicine, and while I think it’s an important thing to remember and a valuable coping strategy, I don’t think it necessarily means that one should stop feeling grief about the horrible things that we see in medicine. We’re all still human and should feel sad at times about how awful the world can sometimes be.

    1. Yes, I think I read the phrase on your blog some time ago actually.
      Thank you – you are right, of course. It’s never okay for someone to be blunted about the state of the world.

  4. You DO get to claim grief. You’re human. You will be a better doctor because of all of your experiences. Good and bad. You can’t possibly be empathetic without claiming and owning the emotions that are stirred inside of you. Here’s a giant hug across the internet.

    1. Thanks so much for the hug, Angela; and for offering some perspective. I really appreciate it.

  5. David says:

    Can I just say that you’re such an eloquent writer, wish I had your gift! Very inspiring.

    1. Why thank you David – I appreciate your feedback 🙂 Mostly I think I focus too much on emotion, but I’m glad it appeals to some.

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