​​Will My Children Be Okay​

I am the parent. Scared and uninformed, I sit beside my sick child in the ER, hoping she will be okay. I am worried. Is this the last time that I get to spend with my daughter? Will our lives ever be the same? Or is this just something we will smile about years down the road. I don't fully understand what's wrong, and I cannot see far beyond the weakened state of my child. In this blooming, buzzing confusion of medicines, readings, numbers, and smells I sit powerless, with my whole life in the hands of a set of scrubs. But I cannot stay silent, so I look to the meticulous practitioner in front of me and ask

“Will my child be okay?"

I notice the doctor flinch and reassure me without eye contact. It's imperfect reassurance, but this is all that matters to me right now. If the doctor says it will be fine, it will be. Why would he say it otherwise?

I do wish to have information; I do wish to know the state of the medical situation. I do wish to understand my child's condition in depth so that I may understand her life better. But it all melts in front of the burning question in my mind. For if my child will not be okay, I will not be okay.

I am the doctor. In front of me lies a female patient in diabetic ketoacidosis, blood sugar is twice the normal level, she is weak and could potentially crash at any moment. The cause of this hospitalization seems to be poor dietary choices and lack of parental supervision. At the moment I have the patient on 3 medications to deal with the symptoms and restore blood sugar level. The treatment is clear but the patient's condition is unstable, and it is apparent to me that her life will be governed by insulin dependence. Suddenly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I am asked the question

“Will my child be okay?"

As the doctor, I am stumped. There is something deeper about this question, and the look in this parent's eyes. I try to avoid them. This is a moral question, but I cannot conceive of every patient in moral terms. It is not befitting of my role as their doctor. Do I start from the blood sugar levels? The vitals? Do I outline the likelihood of a crash at any moment? Do I outline the probability our medication has of succeeding? I don't feel like these things will answer the question at all, but it's a question that cannot be ignored. I remain silent longer than I should.

I could say something like “God willing, yes", but would I believe it? Does my belief matter here?

I am the patient. I drift in and out of consciousness, I sleep and wake. When I bubble back to the world I look around for my mother. She is by my side, but she looks deeply troubled; she is not her usual self. There is a fear in her eyes…

...Am I going to die? What if she knows that there is no hope?

I'm weak, every thought is taxing.

I want to go home. I want to go home.

I am the itinerant observer - a fly on the wall.  I see, in a short exchange on a bed in the corner of the ER, three worlds intersecting. I see a doctor, driven by data and pin-point rationality. Logical and thorough, he checks readings, rechecks charts, and tinkers. I see a mother, helplessly present. I see a child, breathless and priceless. True communication is hard, because these three individuals are part of drastically different subjective perspectives. For one this is their life, for one this is a patient, and for one this is their child. Yet communication occurs. The sincere question tossed forth to the doctor allows the opening of a passage. A response, although inadequate and at times inaccurate, gives strength to the mother. The doctor's rational disposition lends credibility to the response, and the response then bestows reassurance on the mother.

With a little more strength and little more belief, perhaps the next time this patient stumbles into consciousness they will see a changed person sitting beside them. And just maybe, that strength can make a ripple in the child's condition.

Communication is more than words, and it is even more than their meanings.

Communication is the concoction that is created when multiple subjective perspectives find ground on which they can all stand.

Communication can create ripples, and ripples are the foundation of change.

DISCLAIMER: ​Copyright belongs to the author. This blog cannot be held responsible for events bearing overt resemblance to any actual occurrences. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of CCIT or AKU.​

About the Author: Erhaan Ahmed, is a 21-year-old undergraduate student in his 3rd year at Grinnell College, Iowa in the US. His focus is a  double major in Russian and Philosophy, with an interdisciplinary concentration in Neuroscience. Erhaan's main interests are in communication- human to machine, human to human (or any other combination that turns up!), and he hopes to further his studies in Europe exploring artificial intelligence, before returning to Pakistan. Apart from this, he enjoys playing the guitar and singing, and likes to perform at college and at home in small venues whenever he can.​