This morning I was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit observing a ward round, and it was a surreal experience. The babies are sooooo small! I was a premature baby myself, so not going to lie, being there did make me a bit emotional. Definitely need to work on not getting too attached if I want to work with children in the future…
Babies are put in intensive care when they have complications from being born early. So I saw tiny, fragile babies attached to ventilators, feeding tubes, catheters, IV lines and pumps. Made me think about just how terrifying it must be to be a parent; constantly worried about if your child will make it, anxiously checking the monitoring equipment to make sure they’re breathing, and asking the doctors and nurses for updates on how they’re doing. Scary stuff.
During the ward round we saw 3 month old twin boys who have been in intensive care since birth. There’s only a two minute difference between them, and the younger one was ready to leave but the older one was still recovering from being in surgery. They really stood out for me because I was the bigger, healthier twin when my sister and I were born, so I’m only now beginning to understand just how difficult the whole situation must have been for my parents. How can you be relieved that one child is doing well when the other is still in intensive care?
As expected social issues come up from time to time, and something that was debated by the team was whether or not to get social services involved in the case of a family who were unwilling to leave the hospital because they claimed that their housing situation wasn’t stable yet. They were unnecessarily taking up a room so it was decided that if they didn’t get a move on, their baby would have to get put in foster care until they sorted themselves out. Sounds a bit harsh, but I learnt that measures like these have to be taken in order ensure that babies are well looked after. Sometimes babies in intensive care are abandoned in the hospital by their mothers and that is just so heartbreaking.
After the ward round, I had the chance to sit and have a chat with Dr C, a Neonatal Consultant. He has been at the hospital since 2005 and has specialised in paediatrics since 1992. For him, it was his six month post in paeds that helped him decide it was for him. He is particularly interested in neonatology because it is a relatively new speciality with a lot of research still going on. One of the most memorable moments of his career so far was treating a baby born at 26 weeks weighing a tiny 400g. She was very close to dying but six years on she’s very alive and well; apparently she comes in to say hi every now and then. How lovely! Her case was published in a BMJ article written by Dr C, and I have been given permission by him to post the article, so here it is if anyone’s interested in reading it: www.tinyurl.com/p55s9s8. Interesting stuff.
Dr C was very nice and he advised me not to give up my ‘normal life’ as I go through medical school and start my medical career. He emphasised the importance of finding a balance, and this is something I will always keep in mind.
So with that, my time in paediatrics came to an end; I’ve learnt a lot and really enjoyed myself. Grateful for the opportunity I’ve had because my clinical visit was only supposed to last about 2 hours, so many many thanks to Dr T because it’s down to him that I’ve been able to do nearly 16 hours of shadowing this week! The whole experience has made me even more convinced that I want to be a paediatrician, so I’m determined to do well this year and in medical school in general because the end result will really be worth it.