by Jessica Ormond, RN
My name is Jessica, and I had the privilege of being Kittery’s nurse after Arthur was born during their time at CMC. On my unit, High Risk Post Partum, we take care of moms who are sick, who have complications of pregnancy and delivery, and those families who have experienced the loss of their baby. Kittery asked if I’d share my version of Arthur’s story – here are my favorite memories.
I was so nervous after seeing my patient assignment for that morning in December. It is not often that we care for babies with anencephaly – and it is also rare that we care for families that choose to carry a baby with a terminal diagnosis to term. My plan was 1 – To help Kittery and Arthur have all the experiences new moms and babies should have, yet at the same time, be mindful that God had greater plans for Arthur, and 2 – Make sure I was able to hold myself together and not cry.
When I walked into the room for the first time, Kittery greeted me with a smile, proudly introducing Arthur to me. Arthur was beautiful – looking so peaceful and content in Kittery’s arms, surrounded by grandparents and big sister Adele. As I worked through the assessment and initial conversation with Kittery, I could sense she was sad, yet at the same time strong, smiling and taking in every minute of Arthur. Not sure Kittery realized this, but she made me feel at ease and less nervous.
For families going through loss, we do all we can to make sure they have everything the need. Their experience is not typical, and it is important that as healthcare professionals, we do all we can to make their stay a bit easier. We set aside a waiting room on our unit for family members. Kittery had a lot of visitors so we wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable and had a place to rest. When Kittery’s mom asked if they would be able to take Arthur outside, we made sure we got that done. I remember pushing Kittery holding Arthur, in the wheelchair through the hospital and outside to a patio area. I stayed a small distance away to give them some privacy. It was amazing to watch everyone enjoy the sunshine and take pictures with Arthur. As the day went on, we began talking to the palliative care physician about the possibility of getting Arthur home.
When I woke up for work the next morning, the first thing I did was call the unit to check on Kittery and Arthur. They had done well over night so the plan for the day was to get resources in place so they could bring Arthur home. By early afternoon, I brought Kittery and Arthur down to the main lobby with Kittery’s mom while Artie went to get the car. It was a few weeks before Christmas and there was a huge Christmas tree in the lobby. As I took a few photos of Kittery, Arthur and her mom by the tree, it happened – the ugly cry that I couldn’t hold in anymore. Half of me was incredibly happy, but the other half was terribly sad – knowing that it was just the beginning of Arthur’s journey home.
If you are a nurse or other healthcare professional – I’d like to mention a few important points:
- Acknowledge the situation and don’t be afraid to talk about sensitive issues.
- Be sure to communicate plans of care and patient wishes.
- Try to anticipate the needs of mom and family so interruptions are kept to a minimum.
- Ask the family if they would like photos taken.
- Be an advocate for your patient. Some rules are meant to be broken – by that I mean if a family wants to take their baby outside, dress in their own clothes, or go on a walk, speak with managers or leaders to make it happen.
They say that nurses have that one patient who reminds them why they became a nurse. It sounds cliché but it is true – Kittery and Arthur are mine. I was reminded that having faith brings you strength in the hardest situations, that there is joy even on the saddest days. I was reminded that I have the best job in the world caring for people when they are most vulnerable. I gained confidence in my abilities to care for families during times of loss, confidence that I can help make a terrible time just a little bit easier. Thank you Kittery, Artie, Adele and Arthur for allowing me to take care of you.