Friday, May 13, 2005

What I'm not talking about

A 5-year old girl died on 31 March 2005.

She was my patient for the last hour of her life. On the way back from the village, we came to the clinic she had been in for the previous day. She looked terrible, and we put her in the truck to take her to the hospital.

She died 10 minutes before we got there.

Some of you will already know about her. For the rest, I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about it:

There’s the medical way –
She had been comatose all day, with tachycardia, convulsions, no urine output, severe hypoglycaemia and a falling haemoglobin. She had been treated for pneumonia but most likely had unrecognised severe malaria.
But this girl is more than her last 24 hours.

The Hollywood way –
Doing CPR in the back of a speeding 4WD ute, the IV swinging off the bamboo pole, being waved through army checkpoints as they realise what is happening…
But she didn’t wake up.

The shocking way –
Feeling her face against mine as for the first time I do actual mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The smell of her vomit. Her pupils which don’t react. Her body lolling limply as I pick her up to return her to her mother. Her bright blue dress which makes her look as she should be running in the street – as she was a few days before.
But this is part of life, and death.

The emotive way –
Watching the sun set in silence as her distraught mother, exhausted from crying, clings to my arm all the way back to Sangkhla.
But as much as this made me weep, it is not my loss to appropriate for my own story.

The bottom line is, a 5 year-old girl died of a disease that we can treat. I am involved because I was there, and my own and others’ actions may have helped, or not. She shouldn’t have died.

She is special, but she is just as special as every one of the millions of children who die of treatable diseases every year. And most of the world couldn’t care less.


Dad said...

Daer Mel,
Now I understand why you sounded so flat on the phone. What can I say? I won't patronise you with platitudes. You are a loving, caring competent doctor who did her best. That won't make you feel any better, and I cannot imagine how you must be feeling now.
I pray that time will give your heart a healing perspective.

Jasper said...

Hey Mel - am thinking of you at what must be a deeply challenging time (and thanking you for swinging my sense of perspective back around to where it should be).
I feel so proud that I know you.
Liz xo

macca said...

Hey Mel,
don't give up on the world just yet. I don't think its true that most of the world couldn't care less. If most of the world (and I think I need to qualify this by saying "the developed world") could have an experience like you are having, I reckon they would care a whole lot more. For most of us, I suppose, ignorance is bliss, and perhaps a perceived necessity in getting on with our own lives ... but having someone like you out there doing what you're doing, and telling us about it, reminds (me at least), of what we take for granted so often. Its very inspiring.

All the best Mel!


macca said...
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