Words on a Page

I was asking a friend about getting medical records. The conversation started about privacy, a field that affects both of our careers, and then it got on to health records, and then on to ordering them, and before I knew it, I had decided, without every really thinking of it, to order mine, from Gabriel's delivery.

Perhaps only to glance through, and then put in the drawer with the information from the funeral home, and the other leavings from the death of a child. The paperwork and the forms and the things that we acquire. And we hold on to them, just because they are our connection with our lost child. We hold on to them, even though they make no sense, have no meaning, we no reason for storing them, because they connect us to that time, and to our child. And so, perhaps only for that reason, I wanted medical records.

There is no medical mystery, the sequence of my days and the disease was normal. The degeneration, the symptoms, the affect on Gabriel. We all know what happened. No inscrutability. The disease was more aggressive, more vicious, exerting a higher cost than is normal, but the diagnosis, the treatment, the outcome, they are within normal.

And so, I sat yesterday, with a cup of coffee, at my kitchen table, paging through the records. I am sitting at my computer now, with another cup of coffee, and I am left.

I should like to say more, I should like to tell you of something I have learned. I could tell you of the sudden, frank tears when I read the neonatology consult report. "Recommend Compassionate Care. No Resuscitation. No need to attend delivery." I can tell you the discharge summary. Mine and Gabe's. I could read from the pathology report. "Infant Male. Approximately 26 weeks gestation. Normally formed. Small for Gestational Age. IUGR. Placenta insufficient. In 10th percentile. Significant focal infarcts present."

I could read to you from the perinatologists report. "Discussed with patient. Guarded prognosis for mother. Has elected to deliver without c-section. Does not wish resuscitation."

The nurses' charting disturbed me. Perhaps if I had known, I would not have spoken. "Patient is tearful. Patient is crying. The writer spoke with patient about dead baby, patient appears to be coping". And a strange one. "Patient's partner is going for dinner. Patient asked 'When do I get a break?". I did. I remember. Mr. Spit left the hospital to catch his breath and take a break. I had my mum and my midwife, and as he was preparing to leave, I smiled at him, and teased him about how he should stay and labour, and I would go and have dinner.

The documents, 70 odd pages, were spread across my kitchen table. I have read them. Poring over unfamiliar words, poor handwriting. Deciphering abbreviations, the strange shorthand of the medical profession. Flipping back and forth, occasionally walking over to my computer to google a term, or send an email asking a question.

I do not know what I expected. There was no more closure, no extra answers. I am not upset by the process, I am not particularly distressed. In fact, it seems as if the entire situation should have been more momentous than it was. I am not surprised. I flipped the last page, picked up the papers, tapped them on the table to square them, and tucked them back in the envelope. I will leave them there, in case Mr. Spit wants to read them when he returns home.

In the end, I return to the paragraph above. I am left. As I was before, so I still am.