Hospitals have many rooms including what physicians call quiet rooms.
A New England Journal of Medicine article titled The Quiet Room was authored and published November 15, 2017 by Peter Masiakos, pediatric and trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
His essay details what it’s like for physicians when they take loved ones aside to inform them their child has died. It was gut-wrenching to read:
“We introduce ourselves as the doctor who took care of their child. We take a deep breath, look into their eyes, and quickly break the devastating news — there is no reason to delay. What follows is the visceral, piercing shriek of a mother’s wailing, ‘Please God, not my baby!’ ”
But it doesn’t end there:
“We walk away from the encounter, our stomachs churning from the stale, metallic scent of a child’s blood barely dried on our clogs, our faces streaked with tears, and our hearts gripped in a vise as we tell ourselves that this senseless dying must end.”
Physicians are human, too.
I do not believe quiet rooms are solely to convey a message that a loved one has died, though.
My daughter survived the massacre at Columbine High School.
In the days and weeks that followed, I saw more quiet rooms than I care to remember.
Sometime during the night of April 20, the ER surgeon who worked on Anne Marie stopped by. He was still wearing his scrubs. They had dried blood caked on them.
We went into a quiet room, the first of many. He wasn’t doing this to inform us our daughter had died. He did this to inform us of what they did in ER. I cannot speak of that here. It’s still too emotional.
His face said it all as he told us what they had to do, his eyes moist with tears as he told the story.
As dawn broke on April 21, chaos set in…..
Doctors, nurses, social workers, insurance company reps, psychologists, psychiatrists – all wanted to meet with us.
There weren’t enough quiet rooms for all of them to meet separately with the families of the four injured Columbine students at Swedish Medical Center.
A decision was made to implement a team approach.
Each family would meet individually with their team to discuss a treatment strategy for their loved one.
Our team ushered us into a quiet room – actually a conference room – every day for two weeks straight.
We were consulted on treatment regimens and methodologies. Recommendations were made and we gave our consent. We felt helpless – overwhelmed, really.
The trauma surgeon who saved Anne Marie’s life stopped by later that day to relate what he did in the OR.
We went into a quiet room. As it was with the ER doctor, I cannot speak of that here either.
He was a little less emotional than the ER doctor. I attribute that to his experience as a combat surgeon.
A neurologist wanted to discuss the possibility Anne Marie might have brain damage and paralysis.
We went into a quiet room.
A psychologist wanted to discuss the likelihood Anne Marie would need extended therapy for PTSD.
We went into a quiet room.
Anne Marie’s cardiologist needed to meet with us to discuss another surgery.
We went into a quiet room – the one I most vividly remember.
He told us the pericardial sac around Anne Marie’s heart had filled with fluid. The fluid needed to be drained or the sac would keep filling and restrict her heart resulting in cardiac failure.
He was asking our permission to drain that fluid using a long needle inserted into her chest. He’d be doing this virtually blind and with no anesthesia.
The risks were great. The consequences of not doing anything were unacceptable.
Informing the rest of my family what lay ahead caused me to break into uncontrollable sobs.
In the end, I can’t remember how many quiet rooms we were led into.
Anne Marie ultimately survived her injuries. That’s the miracle in all of this.
Gun violence isn’t unique to mass shootings. It’s an epidemic that knows no boundaries.
Health professionals deal with it daily. Some are trying to do something about it.
Dr. Masiakos has become instrumental in starting a movement called ‘This is our lane” in response to a certain NRA admonition to medical professionals I’ve written about previously.
The link to his Twitter feed is:
His lane is also my lane to help end gun violence.
Please consider following and sharing with family and friends.
My two cents.
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