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On My Mind
March 2003

Danny's MotherA Lesson in Humility

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2003 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2003

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(3):228. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.3.228

DURING MY second week as a pediatric intern, I wrote the following––a letter never sent––about my first experience, as a physician, with the death of a patient.

You came to find me the other evening, distraught as you realized that your young child was dying. You cried, told me Danny was going to die, and asked me what to do. We had connected several days before, on the third day of my internship, when I sat with you while a team of doctors worked on your son after he suddenly stopped breathing. During the resuscitation, as I followed instructions and injected medications into his IV tubing, I was deeply saddened by Danny's condition. With my own small child the same age as Danny, I thought about what it must feel like for a parent whose 18-month-old child is very sick and at risk of dying. People, equipment, and frantic activity surrounded Danny's small body, sprawled on his hospital mattress. I had observed adult resuscitations before, codes of elderly patients, patients who had lived full lives. I was surprised that a child, especially a small one, could stop breathing and, perhaps, die.

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