As I walking to conference this morning, a medical student said “a sick child is in neonatology, please go.”
When I arrived, the child had been alive for only 3 minutes. He was blue and not breathing, so I placed a breathing tube and we did all of the standard resuscitation measures. Within 40 minutes he was stabilized.
One hour later, his exam demonstrated no brain stem function and he was extremely hypertonic (stiff). As I was describing the abnormalities of his exam to the doctors, he began having seizures.
We controlled the seizures and continued to breathe for the patient for the following six hours. Unfortunately, the exam showed no improvement.
At 3PM, a medical student and I spoke with the parents. I told them “Your child has suffered a severe injury to his brain and it is no longer working. We are giving him medications to keep him alive. In my experience, he will die soon and there is no chance of survival.” The mother reached for her husband, grabbed him around his waist, buried her head in his lap and began sobbing.
I gave them time to comfort one another and then said, “We will continue to do everything for your son, but if you choose, we can stop and allow him to die now.” The father, who was trying to remain strong, began to cry and asked “can you please give us more time to decide?”
One hour later, there was a knock on the door in neonatology and the father appeared with his friends and family. They all arrived for a service. Ten people quietly and calmly stood around the bed as a pastor prayed. The tone and strength of his words brought many to tears.
As the service finished, the father remained next to the child. I asked “Would you like us to continue keeping your child alive?”
He stood silently and gestured that he was unsure.
After a few minutes, I then said “I highly recommend that we stop. I will allow him to die peacefully now, unless you request me to continue.”
He whispered “thank you”.
We removed the tube and he quickly died.