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September 16, 1988

When Tom Died

Author Affiliations

Bronx, NY

Bronx, NY

JAMA. 1988;260(11):1619. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410110127043

The Tom who finally died in May wasn't anything like the Tom I had gotten to know during my first rotation on Floating 5. Back in September, my internship was still fresh; I hadn't done much suffering and neither had Tom. He had come in near the end of the month, a slightly pale but healthy-looking teenager; he had been losing weight, feeling run down, and complaining of bone pain. His mother finally took him to the family physician the day his gums bled as he brushed his teeth. His leukemia was diagnosed that day.

I was just getting to know Tom when September ended and I had to move on to the next rotation. I felt bad for him; he was a nice kid but his prognosis was terrible. I promised to visit him when I got the chance, but things got pretty busy and by the middle of