22 April 2007


first, a bit of background: i was born and raised in a suburb of a large american city. during my school years, the public education system in my area was in turmoil. since my parents place a high value on education, they decided to make a huge financial sacrifice by sending me to a small private school for 6th-12th grades. although, like any other, my education had its ups and downs, the community of the school was, at the time, like a family. even though it's been over ten years since i graduated from high school (gasp), i still keep in touch with many of my friends from school. we rarely have a chance to see each other anymore, seeing as we're all scattered across the globe by this point, but these are all good friends--the kind that i can pick up the phone and call and talk to as if no time has passed. it's rare in life, i think, to find people with whom one can connect so well and i feel very blessed by their friendships.

yesterday i received an email from one of these friends, whom i'll call dr. cs (<--he's a doctoral student in computer science and is probably one of the few, like me, who will be an eternal student--i think he's more than earned the title of dr by now, even if the school wants to milk a few more research papers out of him before dubbing him officially). three years ago i attended dr. cs's wedding--a beautiful event that brought a bunch of us back together, reunion-style, as a rare treat. dr. cs married mrs. cs, who, although i don't know very well, i really, really like, and i suspect could become a good friend, were it not for the gap of many miles between us. in short, dr. & mrs. cs are a great fit. so i was thrilled, a few months back, to hear that they were expecting their first child. they're the type of people that you just know will make great parents.

so dr. cs sent this email yesterday, titled something to the effect of "greetings from x_state." this perplexed me a little, since x_state isn't where he lives, but it is where another of our friends live, so i thought maybe they were on vacation. unfortunately, the title of dr. cs's email belied the content. it turns out that they were in x_state for a friend's wedding. the night of said wedding, mrs. cs went into early labor and ended up giving birth to their son, i.w.g., at a mere 26 weeks' gestation. it was an unexpected early delivery with dire consequences.

for three weeks they went on the roller-coaster ride of having their baby in the nicu and all that that entails. on tuesday, after many ups and downs, little i.w.g. succumbed to his illnesses (primarily premature lung disease with what sounds like a secondary nosocomial pneumonia on top) and died. dr. & mrs. cs kept a blog about the experience--a heartbreaking, tender, thoughtfully written account of each day in this baby's life--and it absolutely crushed me to read it. i cannot even begin to fathom the pain and suffering they've endured. i thought about posting the link to the blog here, but in the interest of protecting their privacy, i've decided against it.

given that i'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the notion that my friends from middle school are even having babies, i can hardly grok the fact that something like this--something so tragic that involves such an adult, mature response to endure--has happened to my friends. i'm in utter shock. when did we all grow up? when did we become adults who have to decide on dnr orders for our babies? it makes me miss the days of worrying about getting my homework assignments in on time (for those of you who were there, think fruit flies!) and worrying about where we'd go to college. that time seems so much more tame and simple in comparison to this....

i couldn't help but wonder, as i read their blog, what it would have been like to be in their shoes these past few weeks. i've seen the sickest of the sick babies in the nicu (the university medical center in which i worked for a number of years has a level 5 nicu--the highest level of care available for infants), but i've always looked at these infants from a provider's perspective. i recall the first time i entered the nicu, while shadowing one of our attendings and a fellow, and my shock and awe at the fact that the first baby on whom we consulted had a foot (i kid you not) no bigger than the pad of my thumb. i imagined, at the time, how hard it would be to care for these tiny babies...but i didn't imagine how horrible it must feel to be the parent of one of these children. the sense of helplessness, in particular, must be overwhelming. i particularly never imagined that my friends could be in this position--especially when i'm not so sure that any of us feels so far from childhood ourselves....

all that said, my heart goes out to all the parents and caregivers who work so tirelessly to ensure the well-being of these tiny little babies. and to dr. and mrs. cs--i am in awe of your courage and fortitude throughout this nightmare of an experience. i know, in the deepest part of myself, that you touched little i.w.g. with your love and care. his time here may have been short--but because of you, i am certain it was also full of warmth.

~ i.w.g. ~ 3.25.07 - 4.17.07 ~

No comments:

a little disclaimer...

i'm a medical student. just a student. so please, don't take anything i say too seriously. remember that i was an english literature major as an undergrad, so there is much fiction to be found in these pages. do you think i'm telling a story about you or your illness? more likely, you're tapping into my sense of "everyman"--that is, your story resonates with what i write here because it's not so uncommon after all. need help? please, please go see your physician. <--i'm not her. yet. ;-)