Everyone has a “worst day of their life”. I know this because people like to say it out loud to other people. 

“Dude, I just had the worst day of my life!”

And generally, it isn’t true. It’s just a hyperbolic way of saying…

“I had to work late.” or

“My boss is an ass.” or

“My girlfriend is sleeping with my brother.”

But really, it’s not so bad and they’ll recover and go on to lead a completely normal life.

In healthcare, though, there are a lot of opportunities for worst days. In Nursing, not only are you responsible for how your own day turns out, but how your patient’s day turns out as well. You’ve got to, like a video game character, safely navigate them through a maelstrom of tests, diagnoses, medications, pain, nausea and whathaveyou, to the end of your shift when you can hand them off alive to the next contestant,  go home and hope to forget. 

There are a great many things that can really send you heading face-first towards a worst day.

One of these things is fetal demise. The rather sterile, clinical term for the death of a baby. Sometimes, this isn’t so bad because the baby wasn’t really a baby yet. It was an “embryo” that is quickly and quietly scooped out from the woman’s body like plucking bad fruit off the vine.

It is bad when the baby is a baby – a full term baby that was really living and breathing and had plenty of chance of surviving in the alien world outside the womb. Now you not only have to help a mother navigate the usual clinical things like pain and IV fluids and insensitive doctors, but also the tides of anger, grief, sadness, denial, heartbreaking loss.

You’re probably going to have to request the baby from the morgue. A hospital transporter will bring the child in a wicker basket, like Moses. You will have to take the baby to a room where you will unwrap this unlikely “package” in order to prepare the body so that the mother can see her child. This won’t be any ordinary baby, though. This baby is badly broken – it’s epidermis only existing in small patches over limbs and hands and feet; the body completely red without it’s outermost covering; no hair on the scalp; one ear canal not wholly formed and only a tiny flap where the lobe should have been; the cranium is bulging and distorted on one side; the belly is unusually flaccid and pouch-like. 

Now you have to try and make this Frankensteinian child look somewhat normal for the mother on this, the worst day of her life. And so, as you gingerly clean the body – still so much blood! – and lay a t-shirt over the bare breast and a fresh cap on the head you, too, are having the worst day of your life.