I had taken care of her before. It was the exactly a year before when I had met her. She had lost her baby then, she was losing this baby as well. It was heartbreaking. This baby was wanted. This baby was loved. This baby had a name. She had requested me as her nurse.
Despite the horrible circumstances, she smiled when I walked into her room. She hugged me and we both started to cry. How could life be so cruel? Losing a baby is a tragedy. Losing a baby on a holiday is terrible. Now she was going to lose her second baby on the same holiday. She was only 20 weeks pregnant, but her water had broken. An ultrasound showed that there was no fluid left inside. But there was a heartbeat. The fetus was still alive.
Unfortunately, I worked at a Catholic hospital. Despite the fact that there was no way this baby was going to survive and the mom had the beginnings of a horrible infection, hospital policy was that my patient had to remain pregnant. If she were at another hospital, we could do a d&c or at least induce labor. Both would help get rid of the infection and ease some of my patient’s suffering. We were not forced to employ measures to prolong the pregnancy, but we were not allowed to do anything to hasten delivery.
For hours she remained in bed, feverish and miserable. I gave her antibiotics and medications to try and bring down the fever. I gave her ice chips, cooling blankets, anything to help her physically. There was little I could do to help with her emotional pain. I just held her hand and listened. She begged me to do something to make the baby come out. I told her there was nothing I could do, we had to wait for labor to come along naturally.
The next day her fever got worse, her condition became unstable. She was going into shock. Her provider came into the room and asked me to get the ultrasound. I brought it into the room and she asked me to leave. A few minutes later, the provider came out and told me there was no longer a heartbeat. She documented no heartbeat in the patient’s medical record. She wrote an order to start pitocin to induce labor. A few hours later, the baby was born. Dad cut the cord and the baby was placed in the mothers arms. We left them alone to say goodbye to their child.
I will never know if there really was no heartbeat when that provider asked me to leave the room that night. If there was a heartbeat, she put her career at risk to save that patients life and end her suffering. By asking me to leave, she made sure I would not be held accountable if she was found out. This wasn’t the first time I had been put in a situation like this with a patient and a provider. It is a common occurrence at Catholic hospitals. Doctors, Midwives and Nurses have their hands tied by Catholic dogma every day. Women are put in danger. Women are forced to suffer.
No woman should have to risk their life to maintain a life that will not survive outside the womb. No woman should have to go through the emotional torture that woman went through over that holiday weekend. No provider should have to risk their career to give compassionate care to a patient.