Last weekend, my hospital held its biannual NICU reunion in Griffith Park. It was a wonderful event that reminded me of exactly why it is that I do my job. I know I complain about the bad stuff a lot. The bad stuff eats at me, which is why I complain, but, as evidenced by Sat, the good stuff is so good it makes up for the bad. I just need to be reminded of the good more often.
Our patient reunion was a BIG event, lovingly put together by our wonderful nursing staff. There were around 400+ people there and many, many former patients. It was really nice to get to visit with the families and see how their little ones were doing often times years after leaving our care. Most of the time, I couldn't recognize the kids, just the parents- not shocking as the kids were babies when they left. There was more then one family where I had to ask the parents which of their beautiful children was with us. One family in particular was convinced that their NICU graduate, who was so sick with a bad viral infection at birth, must have gotten "smart blood" in at least one of multiple blood transfusions because they think she is their smartest. I don't know about that, but it was wonderful to see this little girl, now 3, who spent days on deaths doorstep, indistinguishable from her beautiful siblings.
However, the title of this post comes from a different family. This was a family whose little boy spent at least 6 months with us and his twin sister at least 2. During that time, I was the boys primary attending and got to bond with their wonderful parents. The little kids were born preterm with the boy having complex congenital heart disease on top of being preterm. Henceforth, why he was in the hospital for so long. He certainly had bad days, and days where we weren't sure if he would survive, but survive he did. They are three and half years old now, and while I was talking to their mom, the kids were running around us, playing some imaginary game that required a lot of jumping and tagging of benches, the dogs and us. They looked great, like any other set of three year olds, except that the little boy is definately small, but alas he is a veteran of 3 major open heart surgeries not to mention a few other things. As we concluded our conversation, their mom prompted them both to give me a hug and a kiss. She asked the little boy to say "thank you for saving my life". He walked right over to me, climbed into my lap, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said "thank you for my life." I got all teary. The three year olds change in syntax by just leaving out one word, is what I strive for in my job. I doubt if he got that, but it was still so touching. You see, saving a life- connotes to me, keeping someone alive. However, a life- connotes the appreciation and interaction of all that this wonderful world has to offer, a future, a loving family, and clearly for him great joy at playing with his twin. It isn't just that he is alive, it is that he is alive and thriving in a miraculous way. That at least is what it meant to me.
There are so many other wonderful stories from that day, as it was such a joy to see our former patients gathered in one spot. That should keep me going for awhile.