This I Believe

Evan - New York, New York
Entered on November 21, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, science

I believe in science and medicine. I always have. My wife and I are both doctors. Double doctors, in fact. We spent eight years in medical school and graduate school becoming the best doctors that we could. We believe that modern science and medicine are often just a few years and a few million dollars away from curing the next major disease. We were in medical school when protease inhibitors changed the face of HIV and AIDS. We were in the labs and treating patients as tyrosine kinase inhibitors first started to target specific cancers. I know that we live in an incredible time for medicine and science. I see it every day. I just didn’t know, or believe in, the weaknesses.

I had an incredible summer. I was working hard in the hospital but I was happy. My wife was pregnant and we were going to start a family.

Then, in October, on Yom Kippur, my wife went into labor. Only the baby wasn’t due until January. We were stunned. Why was this happening? There had been no indication, no warning. We were worried but we didn’t despair. We had both seen this before as medical students. Pre-term labor could be stopped. There was bed rest, several drugs, cerclage procedures. The baby was not coming. We had read the literature and we believed that we had at least 2 weeks. We even planned how we were going to spend the time on bed rest. But medicine was wrong. In less than 24 hours, the labor progressed and we had a beautiful son.

He was only 25 weeks gestation but he was big; about 30% bigger than predicted. He came out crying. His Apgar score, the record of his condition at birth and a few minutes later were 8 and 8 – better than a lot of full term babies. He went to a neonatal ICU and the doctors went to work. He needed help breathing, help with his blood pressure, and help with his kidneys. But despite all the problems we were assured that he was going to be OK. His odds favored survival – 10 to 1 we were told. And we believed. But medicine was wrong. After 24 days, our beautiful son died.

We mourned our baby boy, Daniel. He was amazing.

I still believe in medicine. I just believe a little less.