My most unforgettable patient
It has been more than 50 years since Lucie Ann, a baby born prematurely at home, became my patient in a rural Texas hospital near Houston.
Lucie Ann’s twin died two days after birth, and the funeral home was called to come for her. Seeing Lucie Ann in critical condition, the driver asked the parents to take her to the hospital. When they replied that they had no money, he said that he would take the baby at no cost, and that the hospital would treat the baby without charge.
Lucie Ann was too critical to weigh upon admission. Two days later, her temperature elevated the mercury to 96 degrees F, and I took her out of her incubator to get her weight which was two pounds, two ounces.
Following the outbreak of diarrhea in the pediatric unit, we moved Lucie Ann to any “clean” area available. We once placed her in the men’s surgical ward. The men were great baby sitters, and would call to say that the baby was in a corner of her incubator and was crying.
A patient with multiple orthopedic problems asked me to tell his wife that a baby had been in his ward. The wife said that he was “seeing things” due to his pain medication. I assured his wife that a baby had really been in his ward, and opened the door of the pediatric unit to show Lucie Ann to her. The wife was overcome with emotion when she saw our little baby.
Our little patient often had two daily baths as the night nurses didn’t think that the day nurses were bathing her. When nurses began referring to Lucie Ann as “the ugly baby,” I put her name in big letters on her incubator. After Lucie Ann weighed 4 pounds, the nurses would put on protective gowns and take her out of her incubator to hold and rock her.
At 5 pounds, 6 ounces, we reluctantly said goodbye to our baby who had developed into a little beauty. The doctor lost contact with Lucie Ann and her family. I have often thought of Lucie Ann over the years, and wondered if she had visual problems from the oxygen that we gave her, and if she had a nice childhood and a good life.
If anyone recognizes this description and has information on Lucie Ann, please contact me care of Scrubs Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Name similar, but changed for confidentiality.