SIGNIFICANT INCIDENT REPORT
CHAPLAIN BARBRA BLEECKER
1. WHO, HISTORY, WHERE?
When my pager went off at 9:29 telling me that there was a Code White coming by ground in 5 min I was taken aback as this was my first Code White. I whispered a prayer for guidance and direction and proceeded to ER.
II. WHAT HAPPENED?
As I approached the ER I took my usual route, I didn’t see a team gathered and realized I needed to go to Pediatric trauma area. As I was about to head over there, the medics came charging through and I could see that there was an infant on the stretcher and attendants were frantically doing CPR on the child as they ran with it into a trauma room. Many attendants, doctors and nurses were surrounding the area, as were all of the other teams and patient rep. trying to get information. I moved into the room, which was by now quite crowded and chaotic, asking if the parents were there and trying to find out what had happened. I asked someone next to me if they had any information, a name and age, they said his name was A.G., that he is 5 months old and had been brought in by ambulance alone. All of the doctors, nurses and attendants were working and shouting for this or that. I was finally in a position where I could see the patient and I felt suddenly that this little guy’s spirit was leaving his body and in that instant the Doctor asked if the parents had arrived, someone said no, and she then asked if the chaplain had arrived. I said, I am here, and she asked me to please come forward because he was not going to make it. As I approached the bed, I was face to face with an infant who looked so much like my baby that I lost at about the same age that I caught my breath and momentarily felt panic……….would I be able to carry out some sort of ritual for this little guy without breaking down in front of the medical team? Would I just dissolve into hysteria? Would the right words come? Would I faint? Would any words come? They were still trying to resuscitate him, as I touched his forehead, it felt cold and his little face was already turning blue. I silently prayed to G-d and my little guiding angel to give me strength and I immediately felt a guiding presence with me. I turned to the Doctor and said, he is gone, please let him be. She said we have to work until we’re sure he has expired. Shorlty after that, they stopped and the Doctor asked for the time (hour) and then made the pronouncement. I began to pray: Father Beloved and merciful G-d, in your infinite mercy, Thou who giveth and Thou who taketh. You have touched this little one with Your finger of Love and bid him to come home and into Your kingdom. We give thanks for the few months of his life…….and I know that he will dwell with You, dear Lord, forever and ever, Amen. Then I said, may we have just a moment of silence to honor this little one’s precious life. Only the immediate team I believe became silent. It was, perhaps an unusual request, but the request was honored. After spending a little more time with the infant, I went to find out if the parents had arrived, wondering to myself, how could they not be present at such a sacred time as this. It seemed really strange to me that the parents had not arrived. I was told that they had a police escort and were on their way. Moments later they arrived and the patient rep and I escorted them into the bereavement lounge. The patient rep. asked me if I would inform them of their loss. I looked for the doctor or someone from the medical team but everyone had scattered. I introduced myself and they introduced themselves and began to talk about the incident, the fall and calling 911 and then the mother said, perhaps from noticing my demeanor………said, go ahead and tell us…he didn’t make it did he? I said, no, he did not. I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure the doctors did all they could to try and keep him alive. Both parents were sobbing quietly. I said I will go and find the Doctor so he can talk with you. They said no we want to see him…take us to him. Mrs. C began to talk and kept saying, my baby, my baby how can this be true she. The father was in shock and just sat with his head in his hands and declined to go to see his child. By this time they had moved the infant to a private cubicle and I went with the mom and stayed with her as she sobbed and began to share events that transpired before they called 911. She talked about how she had gone in to get him after the rest of the family had had a leisurely breakfast and feeling happy to have a quiet time before waking baby. She talked at length about the relationship of her husband and baby, that she felt a lot of compassion for her husband because this was his first and only child and that she has two older sons, age 20 and 23. Presently I asked if she wanted to be alone with her baby. She said yes. I told her that I had prayed with her son at the moments of his transition and she was appreciative. She then asked if I would go and encourage her husband to come and see the baby and in that way he could more accept his loss. I agreed with her emphatically. I went back to the lounge and by this time the older boys had arrived and were with the father. They were all crying and embracing and consoling each other. I expressed my condolences to the brothers and asked if they would like to see their brother and they said definitely they would and dad at this point agreed to see him. He was obviously in shock. I escorted them into the cubicle and then excused myself to give them privacy, telling them to have a nurse page me if they needed me. I returned later and found them still holding the baby, rocking him and telling him stories. I left them intermittently and prayed with them at one interval.
III WHAT MADE THIS INCIDENT CR ITICAL FOR YOU?
Having to remain professional (chaplain) in the face of grief that could have triggered a deep emotional reaction for me in that present moment was a challenge for me. It was the first time I had been a witness to an infant of that age making transition since my baby passed provided for me an opportunity to notice how I could be with a family in a similar situation, guiding them through their grief without needing to regurgitate my experience of grief to share with them but saw that the appropriate step was to just be with them. It truly seemed to be a time to “show up and shut up.”
IV WHAT FEELINGS?
I found myself at some point crying with them, I resonated with their grief and pain, and I believe my tears were for all of the sorrow that is felt for collective losses in our lives.
I didn’t feel the necessity to give advice or share my “grief story.” I also felt comfortable letting their “whys” go unanswered, and simply, warmly, compassionately acknowledge the presence of G-d. This incident reinforced for me the importance of Chaplains doing appropriate grief work and possible on going therapy. I was able to be compassionately detached from the family in the realization that it was this family’s loss and their grieving time. Some part of me wanted to express the usual words and phrases that are suppose to comfort in crisis like this, but I knew they would ring hollow and would not fill the huge gaping hole in their hearts. The loss of a child so suddenly is an inconsolable pain that no words can express and no words can comfort. All that I could do was be still that G-d’s healing presence could be felt.
V. EVALUATE THE INCIDENT
I was present with the mom when the Doctor sat her down to tell her of the rescue efforts taken to save the baby. My heart hurt for her to hear all of those details and I could only put my arms around her and hold her hand to let her know that we were united in love, one aching mother to another and that there was understanding .
The family appeared to be very close knit. The disbelief and shock among the brothers and father was so obvious as they took turns holding the baby, rocking him and telling him stories. They didn’t talk much but their faces spoke of the unexpressed pain within.
Handing over a precious angel back to the Father was an awesome experience. Truly G-d is the giver of life and the receiver of life.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS INCIDENT:
It was a moving experience to walk with this family through the initial steps of accepting their loss. I learned once again the importance of just being a beholder and holding a sacred space for another allowing the family and the Holy Spirit to initiate the direction of the moment.
TIME ELAPSED IN THE INCIDENT? About 45 minutes