Monday, October 19, 2009

ARCHIVE: Intention and Very Sick Babies

[Originally published on my page of The Living The Field Community on January 19, 2009].
by Kellia Ramares
In the middle 80's, I had a roommate named Karen who was studying to be a labor coach. As part of her training, she worked for a time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There she met a male nurse. I don't recall if she ever mentioned his name, so I will call him Manuel. He was Mexican and the son of a curandera, a traditional Mexican healer. He noticed that the visiting doctors, medical students in tow, were very cold to the babies, sometimes even speaking not in terms of the whole child but only of the problematic body part(s). They referred to this heart, this liver, etc. Manuel noticed that the babies' vital signs would always go down after these rounds.
One day he and Karen decided that they would "talk up" the babies after rounds. They would tell each one not to pay attention to the doctors, that they were doing great and were going to be fine. The babies' vitals would improve after Manuel and Karen talked the babies up.
I met another NICU nurse who couldn't deal with babies dying. So at the start of every shift, she announced that fact to the babies, and said that while she understood that some of them had to go, they could not do so on her shift. No babies ever died on her shift.