The day after Maddie’s birthday, I participated in a symposium at UCLA (the one where I reconnected with The Nurse). UCLA has two hospitals in our area. There is a community hospital where Madeline passed away, located in Santa Monica, and there is the main hospital where Annabel was born, located adjacent to the UCLA campus in Westwood. When we walked out of the Santa Monica hospital on April Seventh, I swore I would never go back.
When I was asked to speak at the symposium, the first question I asked was where it was going to be held. I was told the main hospital, and I breathed a sigh of relief. As much as I wanted to help, I couldn’t go back to Santa Monica. I didn’t want to smell it, walk through the hallways, have any triggers.
On November 12th, we arrived at the hospital and I immediately started running into nurses and doctors from the NICU that wanted to say hello. Everyone rubbed my belly and asked about my pregnancy. We all shared lots of tears over Maddie. And then, I walked into the auditorium and I saw him.
The doctor, the one in charge of the PICU in Santa Monica. Madeline’s attending physician on the day she died.
I wasn’t expecting to see him at the main hospital. It made sense he would be there in theory. I should have been prepared, but I wasn’t. He knew I would be there – my name was on the program, as was Madeline’s.
I felt like I’d been punched.
I went on with greeting old nurse friends, but I could sense him hovering. I knew that he wanted to talk to me. I could feel him staring. I kept myself busy catching up with my friends until it was time for me to talk.
The moderators of the session asked me many questions and it took every fiber of my being to focus and attempt to answer them. I would try to force myself to look at my friends in the audience, but my eyes kept straying to where he sat. I could see his eyes on me, watching, listening to me talk about how it felt to watch my daughter die and all I wanted to do was stand up and point and scream “IT’S YOUR FAULT! IT’S YOUR FAULT MY BABY IS DEAD! YOU DIDN’T SAVE HER!” I was overcome with real, pure hatred. The entire session is a blur. I have no idea what they asked me, or what I said. I don’t know if I made sense.
After my portion was over, I was shaking. I don’t know if anyone noticed. I handed out more hugs, exchanged contact information with my special nurse, and spoke a bit more with one of Madeline’s NICU nurses. Again, I could feel his eyes on me. I purposely kept my back turned to him. I didn’t want to talk to him, hear his voice, get within arm’s reach of him because I knew I would physically hurt him. He seemed to get the hint, and stayed away.
I found out later through my mom and Mike (who had attended with me) that the leader of the session knew that doctor would be there, but she didn’t want to tell me in advance for fear I would get upset. She told Mike and my mom that he was shaken by Madeline’s case. Good. I hope he wakes up every night and is haunted by my screams from when he pronounced her dead. After the horrible way he treated us during her final minutes, he deserves that.
I wish I could say that, seven months since I last saw him, I am at peace with this, but I’m not. I don’t care if he did everything he could. I don’t care if he is a lovely man outside of the hospital (although from his behavior in there, I would have a hard time believing it). Madeline is gone, and it was HIS JOB to save her. I can’t talk to him. And I certainly wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to clear his conscience when he could have the night she died. He failed at his job, and even if intellectually I know that it might not have been his fault, I don’t care. He lost a patient – I lost a daughter, and SHE lost her LIFE.
I want to be the better person, but I can’t. It’s ugly and messy. I hate him.
I can’t forgive him.
edited to add:
I want to clear up a few things: first, the session that I spoke at that day was all abut Madeline, and the care she received during her final hospital stay. So, I was able to air all my problems with the way things were handled. And since he was in there, he knows. Second, I know that everyone in the room that day did everything they could to save Maddie. I don’t doubt that one bit. There are a LOT of things that happened in the room that I still can’t talk about, but someday I will be ready. Third, I definitely don’t give this man much thought. I was messed up for a few days after I saw him, I but I talked about it to my therapists. Yesterday, he popped into my mind, and I needed to write to get him out. So please don’t think that my feelings about him eat away at me – I love my daughters too much to focus on him. And fourth, I really do hope this made him a better doctor. I know he is one of the best – he’s the head of the PICU at one of the best medical schools on the west coast. But his bedside manner is hideous, and that is beyond important when you work with frightened children and parents. And I know he’s human, and that is why I want to be the better person. However, he could be the best doctor in the world now, but it doesn’t change what we went through. It is a learning experience that I wish he’d had BEFORE he was my Madeline’s doctor.