"Please, just tell me that it's not hopeless."
The dad had walked up just as the echocardiogram technician uttered the words, "Bad. That's very bad."
I'd caught his expression at the time, but he just walked away without saying anything and saved his request until she left. There wasn't much I could say.
The tech had showed me the defects she saw and it looked pretty complex, but I really didn't have any information that would be helpful to him. The cardiologist hadn't even seen the echocardiogram yet - it was still being transmitted to the world-class pediatric cardiology center (WCPCC) where we were planning to transfer the baby.
I took a deep breath and said a silent prayer. How to leave him with at least a little hope, but no promises? It's never easy.
"I can't promise you anything. Even the cardiologist at WCPCC can't give you answers until she reviews the echo, examines the baby, and maybe not until she does a cardiac catheterization or other studies to find out exactly what's going on. I can tell you that we're sending your baby to the hospital where I'd want my baby to go in this situation -- and that they can fix things now that nobody could fix 20 years ago. Your baby was born at the right time, in a part of the country where we have several nearby cardiac surgery centers. Your baby is going to the best one. It's not hopeless."
Then I watched him walk over to his wife and promise her that everything would be fine. I wondered if I'd said the right thing.
The transport team arrived shortly afterwards to take the baby to WCPCC. The next evening, we heard that the baby did have a correctable defect. She would require several surgeries before her heart was completely repaired, but it was definitely not hopeless.