As a labor and delivery nurse, Carolyn "Reed" McKean is well acquainted with the beginning of life when babies are being born into the world, the vast majority of which are the happiest of occasions. As the Pediatric Palliative Care Team, we are often faced with very different situations in which the beginning of life can also be the end. Reed was present during two such seemingly impossible situations, the births of two tiny patients on separate days where babies were known to have conditions that would prevent them from living long after their entrance into the world. She was thoughtful, and present and only wanted to alleviate the pain of the parents, despite it being quite difficult to be the face of the caregiver on the patient-facing team.
When one of the babies was born, there was a moment when the parents were not sure if they would be able to hold their daughter, given the emotion and devastation they were feeling. Reed did not hesitate for a moment; she held the baby until the parents were able to compose themselves and hold their little one until she passed. We believe that she would have held that baby until she passed away if the parents were unable.
On the second day, she volunteered to take care of another family, since she had just been through the process, providing this family with seamless, compassionate, and excellent clinical care. While we, as nurses, may feel that nursing is a calling, the care that Reed provided these families cannot be learned from a book nor taught in school, it can only come from within. Reed is a beacon of compassion and empathy. She is a gift to the patients and families she serves.