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AUGUST WINNER: The Life in a Moment


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At what point did life begin?

Entire books had been written on that question. Debates had raged back and forth for centuries. It was the unsolvable mystery of creation. Everyone had a theory; no one had definitive proof.

Did life begin when one cell combined with another cell to create new cells? Was it when that cluster of cells took on features...arms, legs, eyes, a nose? Perhaps it was the first time the fetus moved or when it had developed enough to survive on its own.

Or did it all come down to the moment of blood, sweat and tears when a child emerged into the world, purple and wrinkled, still attached to its mother, but wonderfully, amazingly alive?

Velana looked down at the tiny scrap of human being in her hands. "It's a girl," she announced, and the woman who had been in labor for eighteen hours at the Fleet hospital instantly dissolved into exhausted sobs of sheer relief.

Training and simulations had taught Velana to rub the baby's body to induce breathing, but all of those holographic infants had started crying right away.

This little girl did not.

"My baby?" Pain didn't stop the new mother from trying to sit up. "I want to see her!"

A nurse rushed to Velana's side. The tiny, perfect baby was so still in her hands. Velana stared at the child's bluish skin, fighting back panic. She wasn't breathing. Velana couldn't make her breathe.

"Cadet?" The nurse looked back and forth between her and the baby. "What do you want to do?" To Velana, the words sounded as if they were being spoken underwater. "Cadet!!"

From behind her, she heard the new mother's wobbly voice ask, "Doctor?"

Snapping into action, Velana set the infant down on the neo-natal bio-bed. She swept the child's mouth open with her finger, clearing away mucus and blood. It wasn't enough, though.

The child's mother was approaching hysterics. "What's wrong with my baby? I want to see my baby!!"

With all the mental discipline she posessed, Velana tuned out everything but the child in front of her. The answer was right there, in the readings from the bio-bed scans. Meconium aspiration. At some point the baby had inhaled some of its own waste product from the amniotic fluid.

"I need suction." The nurse slapped a tube into Velana's hand, which she then gently eased into the baby's mouth and down its throat.

The procedure took only seconds, but each second until the infant's chest started rising and falling felt like an hour. Even once the waste was cleared away, the baby didn't immediately cry, but she whimpered and wheezed and that was so much better than silence.

With the little girl's skin slowly turning pink, Velana carried her back to her mother. "Congratulations," she said as she carefully handed the little girl over.

"Oh..." Clasping her baby against her breast, fresh tears spilled down the woman's cheeks. "Thank you. Thank you so much, Doctor."

When did life begin? Conception, development, birth?

Or was it the moment when a medical student became a doctor?

Lt. Commander Velana

Chief Medical Officer

USS Mercury

Edited by Velana
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