Ye Shalt Not Judge?

At the beginning of this week, I moved from the oncology department to the A&E department.

On my second day, I got to work just before 9am and set about looking for my supervisor. I looked into the women’s and children’s room, where there was only one patient, a small child wrapped up in blankets, and no staff to be seen anywhere. I passed through and went on hunting for the consultant.

I’ve thought a lot about what I did that morning. Should I have checked on him? Should I have asked a doctor or a nurse to see him? If I had done those things, would it have made any difference at all? He had been seen by someone, and must have at least gone through triage, to get as far as a bed. I’m not a doctor. He wasn’t technically my responsibility. None of those things have stopped me from thinking about what if, though, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.

It wasn’t until nearly two hours later, when I was with my consultant and seeing other patients, that a nurse came and forcibly dragged him over to the children’s ward. The child had died. They looked at his pupils and they listened for heart and lung sounds, and they told me that there was no life here. They wrapped him up in a blanket. They told me that they thought that he had been poisoned.

A few minutes later, a nurse came back and unwrapped him. I think she wanted to demonstrate to the nursing students what it looks like when someone dies due to poisoning. She pointed at the white foam around his nose and mouth. She pushed down hard on his tiny stomach and forced out more foam. And she spoke to the students and then laughed and wrapped him back up.

I had to get out, then. I needed a minute to sit down and have a few tears.

He was still there when I left later in the afternoon, still wrapped up in his blanket. They had put two other children, ones who were waiting for treatment, on the bed beside his body. I checked them. I had to.

They tell us that we shouldn’t judge.

But it’s hard not to sometimes.

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6 comments

  1. Oh, Beth. I’m so sorry.
    I have started and deleted other words at least six times, but nothing more adequately says what I feel – I am so sorry. What a nasty thing to experience.

    I know you must have so many thoughts and questions, and my prayer for you (along with lit candle) is that you can sort it out to where you can have peace.

  2. That is so hard for you or anyone to experience, but if you can take the memory and the learning with you into your work you will be an even better doctor one day.

  3. Very nasty all round. I am so sorry. But you know, it actually was not your responsibility, and I should think it was very likely already too late. I am so so sorry though.

  4. Hi Beth Sweetheart. It was not your fault and remember what Grandma says, “When the bus comes and your seat is on it, you have to get on. If the bus is full you will be left hear till another day”. Love you and proud of you and caring is what makes us human. xxxx Aunty J

  5. Every time we visit medical people we go together, just so that we have the other one with us to actually care what happens. Doctors can’t watch every patient, I know; you just wish that everybody could have family with them to pay attention where the doctors can’t.


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