In honor of Mother’s Day I thought I’d write something a little more serious. It’s something that’s been at the back of my mind since Med school but a patient I saw the other night got me thinking about it a little bit more.
One of the most gorgeous little girls came into the EC with a little bit of a cold. She was three years old and had big brown eyes with long eyelashes and a perfect little smile. She greeted me when she walked in and said “Dankie Tannie” when she left. She was accompanied by a lady who was not her mother but a temporary foster mother from a “safe haven” for abandoned children. Now if you just read that sentence once off you probably won’t give it much thought. Read it again. A safe haven for abandoned children. There is so much wrong with that sentence. Firstly, why do we need a special place for children to go for safety. Everywhere should be safe. We shouldn’t need to provide special places of safety. And secondly, the words abandoned and children should never have to be used in the same sentence. Why are we having children that end up abandoned?
Children represent the innocence in the world, and the simplicity and fun and second chances. But they also represent the vulnerable. They have no voice and they depend on us to represent them. But we are failing them. I’ve been working for 4 months and I can remember at least five occasions when a child was brought into the EC as a result of neglect, abuse or just poor parenting. Sometimes is very obvious, like when a lady’s neighbor called the ambulance to fetch an 18 month old who had been burnt three days ago. The mother of the child smelled like she’d bathed in box wine and the child had a burn wound on its arm that was obviously old and now infected. Or it can be more subtle, like a child who has outstanding immunizations.
I often get frustrated with the mothers who bring their children to the EC for a runny nose or the slightest rash. The other day someone brought their 7 month old saying she didn’t want to drink the formula she was being given and what should she do? These all seem like stupid reasons to bring your baby to an emergency room but it shows that these children are cared for. I’d rather spend the whole night seeing healthy children whose parents are a bit overly concerned than have to see one child who needs help because they have pathetic parents.
There is no easy way to solve this issue. It is complex, but we should at least stop making excuses. There is no excuse. Being a young parent is not an excuse. I have friends who became mothers before they planned and they are some of the best mothers I’ve seen. Being poor is not an excuse, most of the mothers I see in the EC are poor and the majority of them would do anything for their children. Having a bad mother yourself is also not an excuse, because treating a child with love and care is human nature even if you had a poor example to follow.
So this Mother’s Day I would like to thank all those mothers I’ve seen in the EC who love their children enough to sit and wait for hours just to make sure their baby is okay. And I would like to thank that lady who has taken it upon herself to look after other people’s children, and all the others like her. There are really some useless human beings in this world but there are also brilliant ones. And those brilliant mothers are the ones we celebrate today. Thank you, the world needs more mothers like you.