I've been working at the hospital for over twenty years and have rarely seen a patient in such terrible condition. A family of four on their way to the beach had been struck from behind by a large moving van. The parents in the front seat had escaped without a scratch. A four year old girl sitting in the backseat had suffered only minor bruises to one arm, but was in hysterics over her friend who had been sitting next to her. I only had to take one glance to see why the girl was so upset. Her friend had taken the full force of the impact, as the trunk of the car curled up over her.
She'd incurred multiple fractures to both arms and legs. Her small and delicate chest had been partially crushed. Although, her most serious injuries had occurred as she'd been catapulted hard against the front seat, causing her nose, and a large portion of her face to shatter on impact.
The young girl stood before me, I could tell she was traumatized, so I did what we always do in this situation. I lied!
“I promise, I will save her,” although deep inside I had my doubts about being able to perform the reconstruction work this patient would require. “It will take a long time,” I remember telling her, “and you may be upset the first time you see your friend again.” This was always the hardest part to explain to a child. The way we, ourselves, look in the mirror, and the way we see others (the way they appear to us) is something very superficial. It's being friends that count, it has nothing to do with looks. They believe grown-up doctors can fix everything, that they can heal and repair all sickness and damage. Sometimes they understand and accept our limits and other times they reject our efforts.
Somehow I felt this little girl would accept the final result no matter what it might be, as long as she got her friend back. As I walked the girl and her parents out of the room, I heard her say, “she'll be alright now. The doctor said she'd be alright, and she wouldn't lie about that. Would she? She'll save her, I now she will save her. She'll put it back together, I know she will!