I can’t remember your name. I know you introduced yourself, but then you told me that you had tried everything you could do and that Johnathan’s heart showed no activity and that he lost a lot of blood. You told me that he died.
I didn’t want to go hysterical. I didn’t want to become the next patient by passing out or collapsing to the ground. I had no air and my brain shut off. It felt like I had no blood going through my body. I was weak and in shock and didn’t want to believe that our son had actually died. I walked into the room with AJ by my side. We went over to the bed and I saw his blonde curly hair, eyes closed. A small amount of blood was in his hair and some coming from his nose. He looked as white as the sheet he was laying on.
I know you started talking about the presentation Johnathan was in when he arrived by EMS. I know you mentioned giving epi and doing compressions and having to re-intubate him after the tube moved during transport.
I didn’t want you to have to tell me. I know how much it hurts your heart to say those words to someone; to a mother and a father. You must have tried to make sure you chose each word carefully. Being clear and concise, but not saying words that would be too hard for any parent to hear. I didn’t really hear anything you said.
You held my hand.
Leaning over Johnathan’s head, you held my hand. I remember squeezing it just to know that you were there and that you were still with me. I looked you in the eyes and I started at the very beginning. I told you about the nose bleed and the vomit. I told you we went to the pediatrician and then went a second time. I told you we had a negative chest X-ray. I went through each symptom and every possible cause I could think of, running my differential by you like you were my attending in the ER.
And you continued to hold my hand.
I couldn’t figure out why Johnathan would have been bleeding from anywhere. He had a nose bleed, once, four days earlier. Surely he couldn’t have bled out from a nose bleed? Even a posterior bleed would have shown us more symptoms over those four days. An aneurysm?
We had suspected Johnathan had COVID -19 a couple weeks prior when one of his teachers got it at school. I asked you if COVID ever made people bleed. I knew that wasn‘t the case. We have been seeing clotting issues with COVID: DVTs and PEs. Not thin blood. Not ruptured blood vessels.
I kept asking you these questions and you would listen and agree with me. You would respond as if I was part of the medical care team sitting back at the desk running through possible causes for this patient’s death.
And you STILL held my hand.
Thank you for that human touch. The words and the explanations for his death were a necessary part of communicating the loss of our son to us. The act of kindness by offering your hand to a grieving mother was a gift.
Thank you for that gift. You came back into that room to check on us multiple times. ERs are busy, I know that. You have other patients, I get that. A nurse or chaplain could have checked on us, but it was you. You came back in to hold my hand again and let me repeat the same differential I had discussed the last time you came in.
As a medical provider myself, I need to highlight the importance of holding a hand. It may not seem like much, but for the person whose world is changing in that moment for all of eternity, it may be the only thing they can feel. I couldn’t feel myself breathing and I would have sworn my blood stopped pumping the moment Johnathan’s did, but I could feel your hand on mine.