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A Piece of My Mind
March 6, 2018

A Ruse on Eternity

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
JAMA. 2018;319(9):867. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.1106

I haven’t thought about my first wake in more than 20 years, but I remember every detail. The service was for Timmy, the older brother of my childhood best friend. He was 18 when he died, after overdosing on inhalants at boarding school. The memories were prompted by Baby M, an infant with extreme microcephaly, an abnormality likely due to Zika virus exposure.

Timmy was a good kid with a wildness that I admired. He tried for weeks to chase down and jump on a train that rumbled through our neighborhood, only to catch it and not know the next step. His mother had to pick him up in a town 20 miles away. Once, Timmy asked my sister and me to tie him to a fence post and leave him so that he could attempt his own escape. A half an hour later, liberated and bleeding from the mouth, Timmy revealed a piece of glass he had hidden in his mouth to help cut the rope. A true Houdini! As a child, I admired his brazen, Huck Finn approach to life. To me, Timmy was one of the “big brothers” on our block, someone to be respected and someone who pushed the limits. We all knew that Timmy struggled with behavioral issues, but everyone on our block loved him regardless.