The Infant

The Infant

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

The Infant

It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.

Abraham Lincoln

As my eight-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son climbed into our car, I drew in the crisp December air and smiled. I had a few days off from the hectic nursing pace of a cardiac step-down unit. My mind raced with things to do—holiday cookies to bake, stockings to fill. We had enjoyed a visit with relatives in a neighboring town. The day was topped off with a bag of hand-me-downs. As a single mother, I was pleased to receive the gently used clothing for the children.

We drove home on the country road, talking and laughing as we approached the intersection near an old church. The wind increased, and I slowed the car as I anticipated slippery conditions from blowing snow. Ahead, I could see an eerie haze. As we got closer, I realized it was radiator steam from cars involved in a collision.

Parking next to the church, I grabbed the first-aid kit and ordered my wide-eyed children to remain in the car. I hurried toward the accident, careful not to slip on the packed snow. I was the first responder. No one was in the first car. The scene at the other car was surreal. A man sat on the ground. A dazed woman sat behind the steering wheel. Two small children looked up at me from under the dashboard.My nursing experience, infused with adrenalin, kicked into high gear.

A driver from a delivery service appeared at my side. “I was a paramedic once,” he shouted.

“Assess any passengers in the backseat while I assess the front.”

A group of gawkers was forming. I looked at a nearby burly guy, “Sit by the man on the ground and hold his hand.”

He snorted. “I’m not holding his hand.”

“I am in charge of the crash you have stopped to look at,” I retorted. “Sit down and hold his hand or drive away.”

He knelt next to the man and spoke softly as he took his hand.

Two LPNs stopped. I put them in charge of the children under the dashboard. Someone opened the church, and they took the children inside. I sent another bystander to my car for the bag of clothing to be used as bandages for the youngsters.

As I leaned toward the woman behind the steering wheel, the former paramedic tapped my shoulder.

“How are you with babies?” he asked.

“A baby?” I hadn’t heard crying! The paramedic and I switched places. I carefully pulled the child carrier out of the backseat and gazed into the sweet face of a still infant swaddled in a gray blanket. Since I didn’t know the extent of trauma, I left the baby in the car seat and quickly walked to the open door of the delivery van. With the carrier seat as my backboard and the van floor as my flat surface, I started CPR. Two fingers across the tiny chest, puffs of air into the lungs. As I puffed, I could smell the sweet baby scent.With each puff, I begged God.With each compression, I whispered, “Come on, baby, cry! Please don’t die. I’m giving you all I’ve got. Lord, help us.”

An air ambulance landed. As the crew scrambled to assess the injured, one member looked over my shoulder. “Keep doing CPR,” he said. “You’re doing great. We’ll get set up and take over.”

Within minutes, he carried the baby aboard the helicopter. Other members of the family were transported via air and ground to a local trauma center.

I took a deep breath and walked to my car as wreckers hoisted twisted metal onto flatbeds.

“What happened, Mommy?” my children pleaded. We prayed for the family, with the infant’s face and sweet scent firmly planted in my senses. I pondered my recent CPR instructor training class when I had drawn the card with the words Infant CPR. To earn instructor status, I studied the technique well. I also thought of the bag of clothing used as bandages. It was all part of God’s plan.

After we got home, I went outside to breathe crisp air, to cry, and to pray. As I opened my eyes, I saw through tears a small grayish blue creature watching me. It meowed. A kitten out in the cold! I called to it, but it didn’t move.

“You must be hungry,” I said. “Wait here.”

I hurried back with an opened can of tuna fish, but the kitten was gone. I looked for paw prints in the snow, ready to follow the tracks. But nothing. How could there be a kitten and snow, but no paw prints?

It hit me. The kitten was the same gray as the blanket and clothing the sweet baby had worn. In that moment, I knew: the baby was in the arms of God. The kitten had come to tell me, “You tried really hard. You did all you could.”

I wiped away more tears and went inside to call the hospital where the family had been transported. When I was connected with the pediatric ICU, I explained my interest in the baby. The nurse drew in a breath, clearly struggling whether to reveal information to me.

Finally, she said, “The baby is brain-dead. They’re transporting his mother over to discontinue life support. They are donating his organs. You gave him every chance by doing CPR. Now another child will be saved because of your efforts to save this one.”

Her voice trailed off as we both cried.

I learned a new lesson that day. As nurses our degrees and certifications have trained us well. However, even with all those initials behind our names, we must remember we are lacking three: G-O-D.

We do our part, but the outcome is up to Him.

Thea Picklesimer
as told to Sandra P. Aldrich

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