The orchid: each time I see the growth of a new leaf, it reminds me of the hope that can come even in the midst of sorrow. And when a blossom appears, it reminds me of the hope and caring that I have the privilege of sharing with every family I have the honor to encounter.
Passion in the Medical Profession | May 23, 2019 | 1 min read
By Susan Aucott, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine
As a neonatologist, no one chooses me as their physician. My role is thrust upon them in a time of chaos. A family’s hopes and dreams are changed suddenly to fear and loss of control. In the midst of the medical complexity, with tubes, machines, and IVs, a parent needs more – a parent needs hope and the simple acts of holding, bathing, and caring for their newborn baby. I have the privilege to enter into the family’s life and walk with them while navigating the NICU. Often, I am able to rejoice with them as their child recovers and the simple joys of parenthood become a reality.
But there is sadness when the outcome in not successful. Even then, there is a need to find the hope and joy of being a parent, even for only for a brief moment, for that special baby. A mother of an infant that lived only one day, in the midst of her grief, asked me for a list of all the names of the caregivers that cared for her son. I presumed she wanted to include all the nurses, respiratory therapists, and residents in a thank you note, so I dutifully made a list of the dozen or so individuals involved in her son’s care.
The next day, the mother returned to the NICU, carrying a box of orchids, one orchid plant for each person on the list. A year later, when that plant sent up a new blossom, I emailed the mother to tell her I was thinking of her. She responded, saying I had brought a tear to her eye, not of sorrow, but of joy, in memory of her son.
I still have that plant sitting on my desk. Each time I see the growth of a new leaf, it reminds me of the hope that can come even in the midst of sorrow. And when a blossom appears, it reminds me of the hope and caring that I have the privilege of sharing with every family I have the honor to encounter. Regardless of the outcome, my goal is not just to provide my patients with excellence in evidence-based, intensive care medicine, but to embrace the family, and find that moment of parenthood that will be a memory they can cherish.