Saturday, September 17, 2011

the dark side of peds

Over the past few days I've increasingly been exposed to the dark, depressing, and horrid side of pediatric care.  Parents who abuse their children either directly or through neglect.  Caregivers who can't look up from texting long enough to answer my questions.  Parents who ask how soon they can go home with complete disregard to the fact that their child is sick enough to warrant being admitted to the hospital.  Caregivers who overtly, and horrifically, abuse their children. I want to scoop up all these children and protect them.  A tiny infant, a sweet little toddler, a loquacious mini person, all of them.  I want to wrap my arms around them and bring them into my home.  I want to be able to promise them that there is better out there, that they deserve to be loved and have the right to be a child. 

I seriously envisioned myself adopting the sweetest little 2 year old yesterday, a 2 year old that will be spending way too many days in the hospital for the horrors he has already experienced in his too short life.  I imagined myself sitting by his bed day in, day out, as he overcame this event and regained a childhood.  I had a vision of what my life might be like if I did take him home.  In that moment, a decision was made.  I will foster and/or adopt children at some point in my life.  There are way too many little ones, and not so little ones, that need safe and loving homes.  There are way too many horrible parents and caregivers out there and not nearly enough safe refuges. 

My heart hurts.  I'll never forget the signs of evil that draped this small child's body.  I hope I also don't forget the angles who took him in.  I'm seeing the good and the bad of the system.   Currently, it seems the bad is winning, and I'm quickly growing jaded.  My faith in humanity is becoming scared by the abuse case that never surmount to anything, with the child being placed back into an unhealthy environment because there is no where else to put him.  The parent who is unable to afford a necessary medication, even when it is on the cheap generic list, but is fully occupied by her very expensive phone.  The disengaged parent who is depriving their child of maximal growth and development through their lack of interaction.  The child that was abused in foster-care; the place that is supposed to be safe after experiencing neglect or abuse in their biological home.  How am I supposed to pick myself up from all of this?  How can I make a positive difference in this world with such a cruel reality?


Solitary Diner said...

This is one of the most difficult realizations in medicine - the realization that there is more illness (physical, mental, social) in the world than any medical system or any group of individuals can possibly fix. For me, starting medical school I found myself paralyzed by the amount of need in my city. I wanted to be an inner city physician and a social worker and a politician and everything else rolled up in one so that I could somehow repair all of the horrible things going on in my city. Over time, I came to realize that I can't take it upon myself to fix everything, because it's a task that's doomed to fail. All I can do is pick my part of the problem to address and go after it with as much energy and heart as I can. The quotation that I think of whenever I'm overwhelmed by the need or frustrated by my limitations is "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Sometimes that's all we can do.

On another note, the fact that you care so much is a very positive thing, and a sign that you're going to be a good physician. What upsets me even more than the tragic stories that I see in the hospital are my colleagues who don't care about them. It appalls me that anyone in medicine could be indifferent to the suffering of their patients or could do it purely for the money/prestige.

MacKenzie said...

You can't change the world by yourself. Your love and compassion CAN make a very profound difference in a handful of lives. Your advocacy and education of your patients is the most effective way one person can foster social change - in my opinion.

It's hard to see. I empathize with you, and my heart goes out to you, and your patients.