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.