From the moment expectant parents see the positive pregnancy test, they begin to imagine who their child might be. Fewer times are more fraught with hope and joy mixed with nerves over the many unknowns. When a pregnant woman is referred to Dr. Nicolaides, it is never a good sign, and hope is rapidly replaced with fear. Dr. Kypros Nicolaides is a world-renown pioneer in the field of fetal surgery whose discoveries have revolutionized the field.
The Netflix docuseries “The Surgeon’s Cut” films several interactions with Dr. Nicolaides as he meets, diagnoses, and performs intrauterine surgeries on the unborn. In one case, the expectant parents listen as the doctor shows them via ultrasound the issues facing their identical twins, neither of which is expected to live more than 1-2 more days due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. The only hope is to perform a laser fetal surgery procedure immediately. This will give the bigger twin the best chance, however, the doctor patiently and kindly explains that the smaller twin may still not survive.
Could there be a more emotionally loaded situation for expectant parents? Hope to fear – back and forth – and absolutely everything is out of their control. I can only imagine the racing thoughts, increased heart rate, tears, and prayers. The situation feels impossible but as is the case with most parents, there is only one choice – do what it takes to give my babies a chance.
The mother is awake during the procedure. The doctor talks the parents through each step, what to expect, and checks in with them frequently. Do you see? Do you understand? This is what we will do next. This is the tool I am using. After numbing the mother’s abdomen, the doctor does one small thing that changes everything.
He asks the mother to hold the hand of her partner and to hold the doctor’s arm with her other hand. And at that moment, the mother breathes again. She becomes part of the solution. The doctor gives the mother agency in that small gesture. It is as though she is assisting in performing the procedure to save her babies. The doctor continues to include the parents in every step. They trust him not just because he is smart and world-renown, but because he involves them. He sees them. He acknowledges them. The doctor is honest with them.
It seems to me that in the multifamily industry we often connect with people who are in heightened emotional distress. That moment presents the opportunity to do the one small thing that changes everything. To see, to hear, and to acknowledge the honest pain/fear/distress in front of us and to meet it with compassion. From residents to team members, I encourage you to lead with the humility to say to yourself, what is the one small thing I can do such that this person feels seen and heard.
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