Views And Reviews

A grief shared

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6928.602 (Published 26 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:602
  1. H Allott

    All obstetricians know of anecdotal horror stories and many could doubtless recount their own. My own worst nightmare became a reality recently. I hope that the lessons I have learnt from that awful night have changed me for the better. I have become acutely aware of the need for support for all the staff closely involved in a traumatic intrapartum loss.

    It is 2 55 am. The telephone rings. It is the worst possible time of the night. I have been asleep for 90 minutes and everything in me longs to turn over and ignore the call. The baby of a nulliparous patient is stuck. The senior house officer is new and inexperienced so I drag myself out of bed, feeling all the paranoia of exhaustion, and shuffle around the corner to the labour ward, blinking in the light. I have visited the patient several times during the evening to review the cardiotocograph and the syntocinon regimen, so at least she knows who I am.

    * “I must be able to get the arm out. I always have before.”

    She is drifting in and out of an exhausted slumber. I gently tease her, promising her a good rest when “it's all over.” The head is well down both abdominally and vaginally. The position is oblique. It is evident that there is no likelihood of a spontaneous delivery and the cardiotocograph is becoming tachycardic. I ask for the Ventouse and attempt a delivery. The machine is faulty and full pressure cannot be achieved. The …

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