I have witnessed some horrible things in my seven months so far as a chaplain at a hospital with a Trauma 1 status. I encountered the family of two victims of a serial killer when father and daughter were gunned down mid evening one day. I sat with and hugged on a co-worker during her first moments as a widow after her healthy-as-a-horse husband collapsed at the gym. I tried to comfort a family after a drunk driver traveled the wrong direction on the interstate killing an aunt and sending one child to the ICU. I grieved with a family who suddenly lost their 37 year old wife and mother for what seemed to be no reason at all.
Last Sunday morning, while on call, I added another to this horrible and vivid list that will remain etched in the granite of my memories.
A 28 day old baby girl was rushed into the ER after her grandmother found her breathless early that morning. The medical team did what they're best at for 20 minutes, then 30, then 45, but with no response from the fragile yet resilient little body. Mom and dad feared the worst when the doctor gave them permission enter the trauma bay during the commotion. Barely able to stand on two feet they walked, holding each other, me holding them both.
There’s a busy crowd of medical staff huddling around her little naked baby body which has tubes and wires coming out all over as CPR is preformed constantly by a nurse using only two fingers. After hearing that nothing else can be done the parents with no breath in their own lungs tell the doctor he can stop. The doctor then slowly and gently walks into the bay saying, “Ok, just stop…just stop.” I am unable to say anything to the family as they completely fall apart.
Back in a private family room tears and tissues are flowing freely. I sat silently in a chair with my own box of tissues virtually paralyzed as I repeatedly dried my own eyes and wiped my nose. I screamed inside, “Why?! How could this happen?” I was angry. Overwhelmed by the thought that this could be me, I cried. More than ever before, I cried. I had no words, but I wasn’t looking for any. Last night when these two went to bed they were parents, now they’re not.
Ten minutes went by. I said nothing. They said very little. One family member went to inform the rest of the family. Before he left the room he said to mom, “We never know God’s plan for us, but we have to accept it.” At this I became furious, "The hell this is God's plan!" It's just sick to think that a loving creator would intentionally cause something so horrific. But I couldn't speak. I could hardly move except to take another tissue.
Eventually, I got it together and played liaison between family and the coroner. I said almost nothing the rest of the time. When the detective was done I slipped out and came back to the office 2.5 hours later completely drained of everything in me. I was numb, shocked and overridden with a sense of injustice. Whose idea was this? The death of an infant is absolutely terrible, and being present when CPR ceased was one of the worst moments of my life. I didn't want any part of it. I was ready to quit being a chaplain.
Though I haven't quit, and I'm still here, my world has learned of a new shade of darkness. For two days I cried for this beautiful sweet giggling baby. And honestly, as I seek to hold up and care for others I'm realizing I need to be cared for also. My wife did this in a wonderful way that evening to her emotionally battered husband. And if you're a person of prayer, pray that peace will one day find its way to this family.