It is impossible for me to not see every patient I take care of under the age of 55 as somebody’s child. And even some of the people over 55. (I think 55 must be my cutoff because my mom is that age). This happened to me the instant my first daughter was born. In the blink of an eye, I viewed the world as a parent. (Have you read Lord of the Flies since you became a parent? Holy shit, that is a completely different book now than it was when I was 14 and read it).
Sometimes it’s just fine to remember that everybody is somebody’s child. It can help bring compassion and empathy to difficult situations.
But today I had a patient with a pretty rough history and a self-admitted “wicked heroin habit.” The minute he said those words to me, I immediately envisioned the curly-haired freckled 12 year old he was 30 years ago and I wondered at what point his momma’s heart started breaking.
It’s one thing for me to imagine it while working with adults. But I know that for me, walking into a room with a sick child and grieving parents would bring me to my knees every time. There are some things I know I can toughen up and handle. But sick kiddos and heart broken parents are not one of them.