I met a man who I’ll never forget. He stopped me in the hallway to tell me how scared he was. He hated coming in, hated the word cardiology, hated the word echo. Hated my scrubs. He was over six feet of raw emotions carrying his new baby.
I explained the test in the hallway because he wouldn’t step foot in the echolab. I asked if his wife had an ultrasound when she was pregnant – the easiest thing I could think of to compare an echocardiogram- and he said, “Of course, all women do.”
I said I didn’t. He looked at me sideways. I said, “Thirty two years ago they didn’t do them as often.”
He said, “Shiiiiit! Thirty two years ago? What are you, some kind of superhero?” In a thick Arabic accent.
He was all over the place, funny, sweet, sad while his wife listened quietly and he translated everything to her.
We finally got started and he stood over my shoulder, watching his baby’s heart on the screen like a hawk.
They got some not so happy news and I was worried about them, but we had a full schedule. I met four other families before lunch.
I saw them later as they were waiting on their car. I was walking back from the cafeteria next door and my stomach dropped when I saw that they’d both been crying. I was smiling – it was a beautiful sunny day and I was glad to get a chance to walk in the sunshine, which was rare.
I felt instantly guilty.
He turned to me and shook his head.
Then he offered me a cookie.
I froze, I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting questions or accusations – sometimes parents blame the tech, or the room. It’s weird, but it happens. I was expecting, “How can you possibly be happy after knowing that my baby will have surgery? What’s wrong with you?”
Actually, part of the reason I felt so happy that day, was that I’d made the decision to quit cardiac ultrasound. I had struggled with the roller coaster of emotions for sixteen years. I’d just recently lost a patient that was like a niece to me, her parents were more like family than friends. I decided I’d had my fill of heartache, even though there were so many good stories I had never been able to keep the “job” separate.
It was never just a job to me.
He pushed the cookie towards me again, so I took it.
He said, “Thank you.”
I nodded, but couldn’t say anything or I would have started crying. I patted his wife’s shoulder and he said, “We’ll see you again, I hope.”
Life. All the feels.