How a Doctor Grieves When an Eight-Year-Old Suddenly Dies
As a pediatrician at a hospital, I see tons of tragedy but am rarely given a moment to mourn. Taking just a few minutes to honor their lives helps me keep going.
Illustration by Nicole Xu
I found his obituary today. Kids do not always have obituaries. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because children are not supposed to die and no one quite knows what to say. Still, I always look for them.
He loved the color green.
His death was so unexpected. I have never seen a child become so sick so fast. I was the pediatrician covering the hospital ward that night. He was an eight-year-old boy admitted with an infection. By all accounts, the antibiotics were working, and he was improving. But by the time I walked into his room, part of me knew it was too late to save him. Still, all doctors have seen miracles.
I scroll through the photos on his memorial page. He looks so happy. So alive. I wonder what his little brother is doing right now as I sit alone in my kitchen looking at their photos.
He loved to play on his Xbox.
I could see the jugular vein in his neck bounding from across the room. He was gasping for air. His heart was failing.
When one of my patients…