Everyday tragedy


Our A +E emergency room has three bays, separated by curtains. Today I was in one of the bays, tending to the needs of an unwell tourist. I could see that the baby’s cot in the next bay was occupied by a toddler, and by the body language of the nursing staff around, I could tell something serious was going on.

As I checked my patient’s ears and throat, I heard the unmistakable sound of cardiopulmonary resuscitation taking place at the baby’s cot. Two breaths, 30 chest compressions, two breaths, 30 chest compressions. Two breaths, 30 chest compressions.

I kept up the chit chat with my patient, made a diagnosis and sent her on her way.

The noise from the cot behind the curtain stopped. I peeped around. The baby’s grandmother was drawing the little white blanket over the baby’s face. It was dead. The grandmother picked up the swaddled dead baby, and cradled her close to her chest. She stayed only a few more minutes then went away, carrying her bundle of sorrow.

Apparently the baby had been vomiting, and so the grandmother who had been left in charge, gave her a tablet that she had in the house. The baby must have choked on the tablet, because almost immediately it had stopped breathing. The family had come on a motorcycle a distance of one hour by road with the not-breathing baby to seek help. It was too late to save her.

I stop for a moment, catch my breath, then carry on with my day. How can I even begin to think about something so terribly sad?



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