Monday, November 13, 2006

A case of mistaken identity

During a particularly busy night shift last week I was summoned to the delivery suite. The midwives wanted me to attend because the baby was being born through thick meconium and being vacuumed out with a ventouse, placing it in a higher category of risk than a 'normal' birth. I flipped into emergency mode and proceeded at breakneck speed to the labour ward.

I entered the room in question purposefully and strode towards the resuscitaire in anticipation of the newborn. As I passed the labouring woman and introduced myself I caught site of what I imagined to be her baby being delivered and the old alarm bells started ringing. In fact my internal siren was blaring. The baby appeared deformed, inhuman, almost alien-like in its lack of distinguishing features. I started rummaging through my mental archives for syndromes and conditions that could result in such an appalling condition. I was considering calling my registrar to join me in what was turning into an incredibly delicate and potentially intensive situation.

My feelings must have made themselves evident by breaking through to the exterior as the midwife asked me in a concerned tone:

"Are you alright doc? You look a bit shocked!"

The question prompted a swift re-evaluation of the scenario and metaphorically (and maybe even literally) stepping back I noticed that a baby was already lying on the mother's chest trying to hold on to the vestiges of its nine months of symbiosis. The penny suddenly dropped. I turned to the midwife and exclaimed:

"That's the placenta isn't it?!"
"It sure is doc. It sure is." She replied, triggering off a crescendo of warm laughter.

My bleep went off again and I left one moment of surreality for another.

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