Late last week I had the occasion to witness two tragedies in one short day.
In one room of the neonatal intensive care unit I stood above a tiny bed watching a newborn baby struggling for life. Due to an anomaly she was forced into an emergency premature birth. She was born at 26 weeks gestation but due to the anomaly she was actually developmentally only 22 weeks. At a mere 13 ounces she is the tiniest child I have ever saw. It is no exaggeration to tell you that her entire right leg was shorter and smaller in diameter than my little finger. She was bright red in color and despite expected pulmonary problems she appeared perfectly formed. Those tiny toes, fingers, and nose, they were all there. She had facial expressions of frustration as she kicked her leg against the clear plastic wrap stretched across the top of her bed to trap heat near her. At one time she pressed her foot against the wrapping and I could plainly see the bottom of her foot painted with the tiniest of creases smaller and finer than an eyelash. She was intubaded and hopelessly struggled against the plastic tube feeding her oxygen. She was opening and shutting her mouth, chewing, and at one moment I even saw her pushing against it with her miniature, miniature tongue. Seven hours later she lost her battle. It was over; she was dead. It was a tragic end to this baby’s life, and a tragic day for her young parents.
Coincidentally at almost the same hour one floor below the NICU another woman died. Her death came one day short of her 100th birthday. What’s noteworthy is that she had been lying in a vegetative state since suffering a catastrophic stroke three years earlier. I saw the family of this woman finally allowing their grief to bubble to the surface. It appeared as emotional of a moment as the parents who lost their newborn. I imagine some of the long lines carved into their faces were a direct result of postponed grief.
As I lay back in my bed at the end of the day I thought about these two lives. I thought about the tragedy of one human who by no fault of her own could not live, and another who could not die. I decided there are no answers for some of my questions. I also decided that time does not heal everything. As a matter of fact, time probably does not heal a damn thing; it only makes pain more tolerable.
So, I guess my rambling point is this, that as caring and loving people we must strive to find common ground to stand on together. We need to find the spot where right-to-life and right-to-die can coexist. Somewhere before a puddle of coagulated cells forms human life I can understand it coming to an end, but beyond that moment, wherever it is, at least for me, it is dreadfully wrong. I saw 22 weeks and it was a profound moment. At the other end of the spectrum, we must have the collective humanity to allow suffering people the right to choose death over a senseless agonizing life.
The issues are difficult and even great, but I think if we really try, I mean really try, we are capable of figuring it out.
It is truly sad to hear. People who are caregivers like yourself are truly strong people. I don't know how you go through it without feeling some attachment. we have to pray for the family. I know what it is to lose a child and they need all the support that they can get. thanks for sharing.
The mind controls all the other parts of your body.
I am also new to this site, and I want to say that rarely have I been as moved and comforted by the wisdom and compassion of your contribution to so many of us who are in pain. Three members of my family and also a close family friend have died in under 5 years. Like many others who are posting here, I too have not gotten the support and understanding that I thought I could count on from friends. Regardless of the standard reason that they are not intending to be neglectful to those in pain, that is very little comfort to us who are so vulnerable and in need of friends' love at such times in life. It has been a turning point for me to find this site, and to read words such as those you have written. I agree with you that in the current times we are living in, nothing is more needed or important than to remind each other that compassion still exists, and for each to make every effort to foster more of it, and to take comfort in the shared idea of many that nobody is ever truly lost to us, but that we will see one another again. Thank you. K.
To a lot of people, the right to life issue has already been worked out and a woman's right to give birth to a child or not remains her decision.
I see and appreciate your deep compassion for that baby girl, what a terrible waste. God bless her and that woman for fighting like they both did. I don't know if I could do your job, jabbas. But I tend to believe, jecrois: that no life is ever truly lost to us.
The controversial right to die may never be worked out because of laws and religious and moral principles.
Anyway, I am very moved by this post and whether or not we agree on the right to life or death, I wish all people would stop and care as much as this.