Sometimes I worry I have grown numb as a doctor. I see things every day I cannot wrap my brain around, things the average person not in the medical field would be horrified by: 12-year-olds strung out on Molly and cocaine, young children sexually abused and trafficked, babies diagnosed with terminal diseases. And yet day after day, I leave my hospital shift, head home to my own babies, and continue on with my life as though these horrible things do not really happen to other people's children.
But today I would like to say thank you. Thank you for showing me I am not numb, I am still vulnerable, I have not become jaded by the evil that exists in this world.
I held your 5-week-old baby last night, long after the other patients had been put to bed and the lights in the nurses' station were dimmed. I was exhausted after a long night in the ER admitting patient after patient. I desperately wanted just a couple of minutes of rest before the next phone call or the next emergency. But as I walked by your baby's hospital room, something stopped me from heading straight to my call room. Something pulled me into his room, to his bedside. Your son looked so small, so vulnerable, so alone in that big crib, with only the cardiac monitor casting a soft light behind him.
It was just the two of us at 3:00 a.m. in that cold, sparse hospital room, lullaby music playing softly in the background. I wondered for a fleeting second who turned the music on, knowing it would soothe him to sleep. As I stood over your son's crib for what seemed like an eternity, I watched his chest rise and fall, deep in sleep.
I couldn't help myself. I picked up your son, careful not to pull out his IV or disturb his cardiac monitor leads. We sat in the chair and rocked. I knew he couldn't see me, for the devastating trauma you inflicted on his brain when you shook him has left him blind. I felt his tense little muscles, willing him to relax, but knowing after such a terrible brain injury, after all of his seizures, he is unlikely to ever be neurologically normal again.
Why did you do it? I know your son was probably crying and crying and crying, because that's just what babies do at this age. Why didn't you just put him in his crib and walk away, go outside and smoke a cigarette, call someone to come and help you? Why didn't you do anything besides shake him like a rag doll until he wasn't breathing, then call 911 out of desperation when you realized what you had done?
Your son will probably never walk, never see a sunrise, never play on the playground. I would have taken your son that day if I had known. I would have given you a break, let you cool off, saved him from a lifetime of seizures, blindness, and developmental devastation.
I hope your son finds someone who will love him when he goes to foster care today. A mom who will treat him as if he were her own flesh and blood. A family who will love on him and invest in him and give him every opportunity to make the best he can of the life you have destroyed.
As for you, I hope you live every day of the rest of your life behind bars, crushed with the overwhelming guilt that you have destroyed the life of another human being. Your own flesh and blood. Your son.
With all sincerity,
The on-call doctor on the pediatric floor