It was a casual Monday afternoon and I was looking forward to my boyfriend coming home from his OBGYN rotation. It has been a few weeks now and he always had so much excitement given that it is one of my potential career choices. But this afternoon was different. There was a sadness in his eyes.
“I saw a mom in labor and delivery die today after she delivered, it was a possible amniotic embolism.”
All I could offer at that point was a warm embrace because I was truly speechless. I mean yes, I had heard of patients dying while working with various attendings. But I could never imagine the moment, seeing someone that I had made a potential connection with, pass away. He further explained that the team had done everything in their power to save her, in fact, no one had even predicted that a tragedy would be the outcome of her birth.
“How do you think you would have handled it?” I thought about that question and I still do ponder the thought time to time. How would I handle death? Would I go back to work or take the day off? Would I express my feelings or just keep my thoughts to myself? I don’t quite have the answer to all of those questions, but I think that it’s important to consider them. Because I know that in my career as much as I don’t want to, I will have to witness one of my patients die. I am grateful that my school has done an excellent job of introducing the topic and helping us untangle these questions along with providing us with resources to handle such situations.
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and stories about how you have or would handle your patients’ death.