Exploring Human Potential

POST-Uvalde, TX – Caring Vs. Killing.

Posted on | May 30, 2022 | Comments Off on POST-Uvalde, TX – Caring Vs. Killing.

Mike Magee

With the Uvalde, TX massacre etched in the American psyche and the smug image of Wayne LaPierre firmly emblazoned on the NRA stage this week, good-willed Americans are in search of our true center. As a physician, I recall patients whose goodness and courage and kindness brought out the best in me and my colleagues. That after all is the true privilege and reward for doctors and nurses and all health professionals – the right to care.

Collectively health professionals have a unique role in American society. Across cities and counties, rural and urban, we are asked to be available and accessible to help keep people well and respond when they are sick or injured. Those wounds come in all shapes and sizes – wounds to the body, wounds to the mind, wounds to the spirit.

As important as are our diagnostic and therapeutic interventions to society, they pale in comparison to a larger, often over-looked function. Together, collectively, we process day to day, hour after hour, the fears and worries of our people, and in performing this function, create a more stable, more secure, more accepting and more loving nation. Our jobs are made so much more difficult by politicians who support destructive policies.

Along with other Americans this week, I have struggled to accept that our nation seems willing to once again accept the sacrifice of our young, innocent children to assure an 18 year old’s right to a weapon of war. I have settled on a different set of images, and a very different narrative – a counter-point if you will – to share.

Eleven years ago, my wife and I were blessed with the arrival of our eighth and ninth grandchildren – two little girls, Charlotte and Luca. We were also introduced, for the first time as health consumers, to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The girls came early, at 34 weeks, and struggled to work their way back up to their due date. They are about to enter Middle School, but in those early days, it wasn’t easy on them or their parents or the care teams committed to their well being.

Viewing them from my grandparent perch, the Connecticut Children’s Hospital Center NICU team at Hartford Hospital did a great job, balancing high tech with high touch, providing wisdom and reassurance, encouragement and training to the girls’ parents, who were inclusively inducted as part of the team on day one. It was really a holy thing to observe.

Politicians like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz might want to visit a NICU without their donors.  They would  encounter health professionals fully capable of collaborative and humanistic care, especially when faced with a complex threats and families in crisis. They would witness:

1. Inclusion: For most humans, the first instinct when faced with trauma or threat is flight. And yet, these NICU professionals’ first instinct is inclusion. With IVs running, and still groggy from her C-section, our daughter and son-in-law were escorted to the NICU and introduced to their 3 lb. daughters. They were shown how to wash their hands carefully, how to hold the babies safely and without fear, and – while given no guarantees – experienced the transfer of confidence from the loving and capable caring professionals to them. Those were remarkable first day gifts to this young couple.

2. Knowledge: Coincident with the compassionate introduction to their daughters, there was a seamless transfer of information – each of their daughter’s current conditions, an explanation of the machines and their purposes, the potential threats that were being actively managed, and the likely chance of an excellent outcome. This knowledge – clear, concise, unvarnished, understandable – delivered softly, calmly, and compassionately, reinforced these young and fearful parents’ confidence and trust in each other, and in their care team, on whose performance their newborn daughters’ lives now depended.

3. Accessibility: The members of their care team needed to demonstrate “presence.”  The outreach needed to be “personal.” This was not a rote exercise for them, not just another set of parents, not just another set of tiny babies. These were these specific parents’ precious children, their lives, their futures were now in the balance. And the performance needed to be “professional.” The team needed to be consistent and collaborative, with systems and processes in place, no descent and little variability in performance, rapid response, anticipatory diagnostics and confident timely management of issues as they arose.

As we attempt to recover once again from a senseless massacre of the tiny victims of Uvalde, from poor leadership and  self-inflicted wounds, we need to be reminded that there is a beating heart and a feeling soul in America. There is a better way – holistic and inclusive, humanistic and scientific, where goodness and fairness reside side-by-side.

How might each of us actively demonstrate a commitment to inclusion, knowledge transfer and accessibility, and in doing so, assure that these latest 19 children, and all those whose senseless slaughter preceded them, were not in vain? Our politicians, on state and federal levels, need to channel a NICU professional – not a RAMBO – when they next vote on gun policy. After all,  our lives depend on it.


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