A really sick little girl came in the other night, Carolyn, and basically died. But then she lived…
She has a condition called transposition of the great arteries, which is where one is born with the giant arteries of the heart connected in the wrong spots. Because of this, the blood bypasses the lungs and does not get oxygenated, so a baby will die immediately. However, If they happen to have some other abnormalities such as a hole in the wall of the heart, they can actually live a bit longer. In the United States they usually have surgery within a couple months of being born, or sooner. If not, they will die at a very young age.
Carolyn is 4 years old, and the fact that she was still alive to be able to come into our hospital that night was already amazing. She had been evaluated already by a Cardiology brigade from the States, and deemed a poor candidate to try to transport to the US and do life-saving surgery. And so, it has been a foregone conclusion that one day she was going to walk in the door of our hospital in heart failure, or with a blood clot in her lungs, and die.
When she came in the other night, I was quite convinced that this was the end for her. As per our usual routine, once the alarm was sounded that there was a life-threatening situation in the Emergency Department, a stampede of doctors and nurses scrambled into the emergency department, and aggressive treatment was begun. Oxygen. IV’s. Monitors. Medications with big names. Eventually, more advanced treatment was needed, such as CPR and eventual intubation/ventilation. At this point, knowing the mortal heart condition that she had, I had pretty much given up. But we have a motto at our hospital, ‘Dios Obra Aqui,’ which means ‘God works here,’ and sometimes I have to remember that He is God and I am not, and He sometimes has purposes that I don’t understand.
Blessedly, at the urging of some of the other doctors, we kept treating her aggressively and lo-and-behold, she recovered. And she stayed alive, and kept staying alive over night. And then she started to wake up and talk again, and then eat. And I saw the way her father and step-mother loved on her, and wept for her when they thought she was dying, and realized that God was giving them a sweet little gift of a bit more time with her.
She still is not long for this world, but her family has a reprieve of their sorrow, a little more time with her to hug her and tell her they love her, before she is embraced in the arms of Jesus. I continue to relish being proven wrong, as a doctor, in these instances.