Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The M Room

"We call it the M Room," the security guard told me.


"The M Room. We don't say morgue. In fact, most people don't know we have a morgue here."

And I'm thinking: It's a hospital, of course you have a morgue here. Doesn't that go without saying? I was waiting for the nurse I was working with to come back with a a warm blanket. There were a couple of steel doors that said: Head This End. And me and the security guard who decided to chat with me, at random, about the fella (well, I guess the former fellow) who had been in the M Room since January. It made me fidget: Head This End, all the gleamy doors and drawers, the warnings about the formaldehyde, the unclaimed body (I guess they cremate them after a while and scatter their ashes somewhere nice: so sez the security guard).

The nurse came back with a mountain of warm blankets and we had the patient's bar code sticker stuck to the bassinet that bothered the nurse so much. You've seen the regular newborn "bassinets", right? They are clear plastic, tall and on wheels. We couldn't find one and just had the one made out of wicker, with frilly fabric and a cute little sunshade all decorated with pink ribbon roses. The nurse said, "It makes people want to look inside and oogle." And that's the last thing we wanted. The security guard opened a metal door and inside was a box and out of the box came a package and the nurse read the numbers on the bar code and the numbers on the package and they matched up. She laid the package in the bassinet and opened it. He looked like a little old man: clear skin, very pink (not like an old man) no fat, long legs and arms and a calm little face. He was born at 23 weeks and died. He weighed a little over a pound and was only this big (I'm holding my hands about a foot apart). The nurse wrapped him in blankets to try and warm him up before we brought him to his mom who had been asking for him all morning. He was freezing cold and when we brought him to his mom she held him with a little smile and tears and I cried and my nurse cried. She's been doing this for years and still cried. "He was so cold," she said. "They should have left him with her."

I'm doing my maternity rotation.