Replacing the receiver with trembling hands the midwife looks at me, the call she has put out comes crackling through my pager “major haemorrhage ward 3……obstetric emergency ward 3”.
The doors swing open, the ambulance crew letting in a blast of icy air as they run down the corridor pushing the trolley. On it a waif-like figure, translucent with pallor. In stark contrast to the heavily blood-stained towel rolled between her legs.
Unknown clinics, nameless back-alleys, unrecognised qualifications. Different faces, all with the same story. They are just kids and a soft voice telling them everything will be alright is all they hear. An adult, a doctor, a surgeon, a gynaecologist; details deemed unimportant when their perceived wrong will be made right.
The emergency theatre prepped for caesarians fills with bodies ready to receive our patient. Eager to help stem the blood flow, desperate to help save her life. Scrub nurses squeezing through bags of O-Neg as the surgeons set to work. Records already set by the anaesthetist; driven by fear, using adrenaline as an ally.
The constant shrill beeping a reminder of how all her physiological parameters are straining under the sheer volume of blood loss. The 40kg body going into a state of shut-down in an effort to preserve the vital organs. In an effort to preserve her life.
A perceptible change comes about. The shrill alarms remain constant, the number of people, drugs, fluids, drivers, lines and wires remain. But the movements are slower. The frenetic motion is more controlled. The eery disquiet is being replaced by speech. The bleeding has stopped.
We are all wearing her blood attesting to the fact her circulating blood volume is no longer her own. Time is going to be critical. Will her body somehow find the strength to make it clot. Or will disseminated intravascular coagulation counter all our efforts. Will abortion claim another life? Will our nameless patient lose her life to statistics, to a law passed before she was born? Will her life be lost because her voice wasn’t heard? Or will her life be lost because we lack the courage to use ours?
As my consultant takes off her gown she squeezes the anaesthetists arm on her way past. Words could never do justice to the look exchanged between them, tears threatening to betray the nightmare they have both endured. The nightmare they have endured countless times before. The recurrent nightmare which has aged them beyond their years. Which has caused immeasurable suffering, pain and morbidity for those both living and working in a developed country in the 21st century.
And the recurrent nightmare which is set to continue for as long as the law dictates.