My early days within the NHS were full of puzzles and surprises. I was no longer called ‘Neha’, I was ‘Neeeeeha’ or ‘Niiha’. My brain was trying hard to find the missing ‘T’ from each word in the local Manchester/Burnley accent (my first time heard ‘water’ being ‘waaer’, ‘whatever’ being ‘whaaever’). I was my most comfortable spending time caring for the sick babies rather than receiving any phone calls in the hospital or medical handovers (scariest of all).
I was swapping the skills I had learned in India from my Neonatal Resuscitation Program course with the American Academy of Paediatrics to acquire Newborn Life Support skills from the Resuscitation Council UK. This made me wonder why on earth we have different life support courses when each one is meant to save the life of a newborn. Whilst my neurons were cross-wiring to understand many such things, I found peace and love from the people around me. My patients, colleagues, angel nurses, staff from administration or domestic services were now my new extended family.
The love I received from my extended family gave me courage and the self-belief to grow
Every day I looked forward to seeing them, making them smile with my warm hug, listening to their feelings and supporting them in whatever way I could. In return, the joy and satisfaction I received helped me to overcome my homesickness.
Gradually time passed. I kept moving to various NHS trusts, consolidating my neonatal knowledge and skills. I was blessed with the love I received from each individual of my extended family that gave me courage and the self-belief to grow as a good human being. It was clear to me that irrespective of all the challenges, everything is achievable with sheer determination if I have a will to give to others.
My heart still remembers a family* who sent me a letter and thank you card a long time after leaving the hospital. The card contained a photo of their son who sadly passed away after spending many months in the neonatal unit. The letter made me cry as his mum expressed how I had become an essential part of their son’s journey and was now an everlasting memory for them.
Their son was born prematurely, had chronic lung disease and required several surgeries. He acquired fulminant infection following his last surgery and thereafter he continued to deteriorate, despite all the interventions. I was constantly engaged in his care, supporting the family throughout and having many complex conversations, which established a trustworthy bond with the family. Despite trying hard during my night shift I couldn’t save this little life, and it left me devastated - but I remained strong to support this family.
This incident left a deep impact on my heart. It made me value life more and embrace everyone around me, irrespective of background, colour, or religion. With time, this belief within me has become stronger: we all want love, respect, compassion, forgiveness and above all acceptance from each other as human beings.
The Dalai Lama has rightly said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive”. Believing the same, I continue my journey...
Dr Neha Sharma, MBBS, DNB Paediatrics, MNAMS, is a Neonatal Consultant in Lewisham Hospital and a Fellow of Paediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care, India.
- *. Any information that could identify someone has been changed.