An open letter to ER doctors
I know you are insanely busy but I need you to listen to this. I have been carrying around my pain for too long.
I get that your work environment is crazy. You see the worst of the worst and sometimes the best of the best. But most of the time, you work too long, too hard, too much and with little appreciation. The emergency room these days is a nightmare of paperwork for the doctors at the frontline, as the hospital needs to cover their butt. Our politicians think healthcare should be profitable and such a fucked up idea puts even more pressure on you.
I get that you have to distance yourself, otherwise you would not survive for long in the insanity that is the emergency room. I get that you can’t be human all the time. Most of the time you have to be a doctor and do your job. I understand.
But I just can’t shake my pain.
When I went to the emergency room because I was bleeding and experienced cramps, I was shit scared of losing my baby, it was the doctors that made the ordeal even worse. Now, five years after and with less of a broken heart, I can appreciate that you were busy, most likely overworked and definitely not overly experienced with miscarriage. I get it. But your indifference towards my loss still stings.
I know, for you, this baby meant nothing. To me, it meant the world.
In my mind, I know you don’t have the time to get to know each of your patients better. This is the emergency room, after all. Also, I don’t know what the pressure on you is. I am guessing by how I was treated, being kind and understanding to patients was not high on the list of daily achievement. I don’t know what they teach you at med school when it comes to patient interaction. All I know is that many doctors are brilliant but terrible with bedside manners. It just HURTS when the one person you put your faith in does not grasp your pain from the anxious look on your face. I wish you could have acknowledged my baby, could have been sorry for my loss, and could have treated me kinder. I didn’t need to get that look full of contempt when I said I hadn’t read the flyer you gave me. I didn’t want to read a flyer! I wanted to know if my baby was going to live or not. But it mattered little. We waited for a while because I was physically fine, just mentally and emotionally in agony. There is no time for that in an emergency room, I know.
Dear doctor, I realise this is harsh but I just wanted you to know. Your words and body language have a huge impact on your patient. I came to you when I felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt. Keeping my baby was out of my control. I turned to you for support and a little understanding. I got nothing. The nurses all said they were sorry, called me ‘darl’ and were genuinely sorry when the death of my baby was confirmed. The doctors were long gone by then.
Please don’t shy away from my tears – or any other patient’s tears. We cry because we are in crisis. Yes, I had the unrealistic expectation that a doctor could save my baby. But this was bigger than all of us. We had no power and no control, it wasn’t up to us to change the faith of my little one. But an ‘I am sorry’ would have been nice. I know you can’t be present with every patient but please try and remember kindness and compassion the next time a pregnant woman who is bleeding is coming in to see you. You will know before her that her outlook is bleak. I can only imagine how hard it is to break the news to the anxious couple. When you do, please start with ‘I am sorry’. Don’t just run away, try and do your best to comfort them before you will get sucked back into the mad rush of the ER.
Saying sorry might mean little to you but it will stay with the angel parents. They will remember that someone else was there when their baby grew their wings.
Dear doctor, I am sorry I had to write this but I couldn’t carry it around any longer. Five years is enough. I am not mad anymore, not angry, just hurt. Life is unfair and it is hard to be a doctor. People are ungrateful, idiots, rude and impolite yet you are the one who has to treat them all. I just wish you had noticed that I was different. The cloud of sadness surrounding me should have given me away. I was not going to be rude. I just needed you to listen and try and help me with your best shot.
We all can be kinder. We call can be more compassionate. We all can acknowledge the invisible pain of a broken heart. I know, there is probably nothing about a mother’s broken heart in your textbooks but it is still real. Treat it gently next time there is one in your emergency room.