It was a wintery night shift in the post natal ward, when the midwives from the labour ward called in some of the post natal team to assist with a difficult delivery. The patient was a stage IV AIDS case and she was in no condition to be put under the knife, it was too risky. She was to have a normal vaginal delivery, despite being too ill to feed herself or go to the toilet, much less push a baby out.
A team of about 7 nurses took their positions around the patient; I grabbed her lower right leg, while another nurse grabbed her left leg. There were two nurses pinning down each of her arms, a nurse at the top of the bed, keeping her shoulders down as two midwives manually pushed the baby out by pumping on the patient’s abdomen. The patient was frantic and resisting our actions as much as her weak body would allow. Her screams were haunting and her eyes were wide with fear. The midwives pumped and pumped and pumped, pushing that baby down. If anyone were watching us from the outside, they’d have run screaming in the opposite direction, because I am sure it looked thoroughly evil to anyone who didn’t understand what was going on.
When the baby finally emerged, we were exhausted but happy that the baby was breathing well. The mother remained weak and didn’t even have the energy to look at the baby. We transferred them both to the post natal ward. It was going to be a long night watching over this patient. I shut the doors and windows and checked in on the mother every 15 to 30 minutes. She seemed as well as she could be, given the circumstances. I was ordered to check her vital signs every half hour. Everything was fine until about 3AM. I went to the patient’s room and stood at the door feeling incredibly uneasy. It took me a minute or two to work up the courage to open the patient’s room door and when I finally did, a bird came flying right at me from inside the room! I ducked and let out a little shriek. The bird flew around me and went straight back inside the room. It would circle the patient then sit on one of the bed posts, and then it would circle her again and move to the next bed post and did that until it had a chance to sit on each of the four bed posts, then it would fly toward the closed window, and back around the patient to restart the sequence in the same order as before. The feeling of unease grew increasingly intense. I found the birds behaviour really peculiar as I watched from the doorway for any signs of life from the patient. I wanted to believe she was just fast asleep but the sinking feeling in my stomach told me otherwise. I quickly ran to the window and pushed it open to let the bird out and it flew out almost immediately, disappearing into the dark misty sky.
I called out the patients name, then shook her shoulder slightly…no movement…no pulse…she was dead. Her eyes wide open and her face spelling terror, I was thoroughly creeped out. The doctor declared her dead while I searched the tiny room and the entire ward for any opening the bird could have come in from. All windows and doors were closed and there were no open vents that it could have sneaked in from. It was quite a large bird so surely I would have noticed it in the room before? Why did it appear in this particular room at the time of this woman’s death and where did it come from? Why was it up at this ungodly hour? These questions played on my mind as I sombrely thought of the now orphaned baby in the nursery who started crying uncontrollably. I held the baby with tears in my eyes and stared out the window, as the birds started to come out of their nests, and for the first time, instead of feeling at peace watching them, I felt an irrational sense of anger toward them….as the baby’s cries grew stronger…I held him close. His little face remains burned into my memory. I can never forget him. I remember every little spot on his tiny body. Life is difficult and to think if I hadn’t become a nurse, I’d be probably safe and sound in my boyfriends arms, not even aware that a beautiful little boy had just lost an amazing mom. A woman who would literally die for him and did exactly that…