Thoughts on Orlando from the NICU
In the Cedars-Sinai NICU, I met my best friend’s newborn daughter. Her name is Poppy. She is tiny and perfect with dark hair and wide eyes and fuzzy ears. It was the same day I heard about the worst mass shooting in US history.
How can these two human experiences exist on the same day? This is what I thought as I walked past the incubators to my friend who sat in absolute joy.
Here in this room, tiny babies, surrounded by tubes, were fighting for their lives. Here, heroic nurses swiftly checked every vital, taught new parents how to change a diaper, and rushed in with an oxygen mask. Here, parents took turns holding their twins. They were dressed in regular clothes as if they just walked in off the street. As if they hadn’t been there all day. Here, a new mother held a tiny person she only just met.
My friend let me hold her daughter, who slept the whole time. She was so tiny her head fit on the crook of my arm. I couldn’t stop staring at her skin. It looked so new.
I looked around at all the caregivers. The nurses and parents and friends and grandparents caring round the clock for these teeny tiny babies. The machines were powering the incubators and tubes, but in that room, the life support was made of people.
After the babies are stable for 48 hours, these parents will be allowed to take them out of NICU. They will bring them down to the parking lot and buckle them into car-crash tested car seats. They will drive very, very slowly. They will spend the next 18 years trying to keep their babies safe.
But, sitting in the NICU on the same day as the shooting in Orlando, I wondered, how do we protect these babies from the world outside these walls? If we protect them as parents, why can’t we protect them as a society?
Tragedies aren’t political. If a street intersection has multiple car accidents, we come together to have a stop sign installed. If a child drowns in a pool, we build a bigger fence. A mass shooting is a tragedy – we must come together to prevent another one from happening.
Fifty sons and daughters died in Orlando. This is not a political issue. It is a parent issue.
Yes, we may be gay. We may be straight. We may be Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Atheist. But, above all, we are parents.
We cut bananas in half so our babies don’t choke. We childproof our kitchens. We hold hands for first steps. We apply sunscreen. We button up winter coats. We buckle bike helmets. We teach our kids how to look both ways before we cross the street.
Let’s focus our collective strength to do what we do best.
Let’s protect our babies, sons, and daughters.
Let’s ban assault weapons.