Well, that was mental.
I found myself volunteering to observe a post mortem examination on two paediatric cases the other day. So I turned up at 9 O’clock at the Pathology Block, walked in with five friends, put on white coats then stepped into the PM room. It was a pretty un-remarkable place, three tables for the examinations and the freezers at the end for storing the bodies, in the corner was a small pile of bags and then an observation room.
The first shock was that the small bags in the corner actually contained the bodies which were being examined that day. They were very small, that’s what I remembered, they were very small. Without even a second to breathe the Pathologist brought out, from one of the bags, the first body, of a 27 week foetus.
Everyone knows what a baby looks like, and so, in a way, knows what to expect a dead baby to look like. A foetus is a wholly different thing, remember that a foetus should be in the womb for around 40 weeks so a 27 week foetus still has some developing to do and looks, in all honesty, quite scary. I don’t really want to describe what happened but basically I found myself very dizzy, close to fainting and needing to sit down. My friends told me later that I had gone completely white, even my lips were white. All the blood had drained from my face into my feet. The second case was a ten month old baby, most likely a case of ‘Cot Death’, technically called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It looked just like a cute, cuddle baby boy should. It was very hard to think of it as not living, well, it shouldn’t be easy really…should it.
So here are two stories, two of many, where a young child has lost its life and set of parents have been tragically denied the chance to bring it up and care for it. There’s no crime here, neither baby was killed by intent or negligence, it’s just that life, sometimes, is a shit and bad stuff does happen. Not just “I lost my iPod” or “I’ve just been fired/dumped/mugged” bad, but painfully, sorrowfully bad.
How on earth can one grasp what has happened to these children? These two lives never had the chance to see the world, enjoy it, enjoy relationships with other people as I have. Also, how many people realise just how complicated life, and the creation of life, is?
I remember Prof Robert Winston saying that if 100 000 couple had sex tonight, without protection and at a time in the month when the women was fertile there would only be likely 40 000 births. 40% of pregnancies don’t last beyond 12 weeks. Life is so fragile, we need to treat it with way more respect that we do, like a precious gift that has been entrusted only to each one of us.
I would hope we all take a little moment to think about that.