A paramedic recently shared on Reddit, a heart-breaking photo of a grief-stricken ER doctor who had just lost a young patient. The photo, reportedly taken in California, shows the doctor stepping outside for a private moment after losing his young patient unexpectedly.
The photo first appeared on Reddit with the explanatory note: “An ER doctor steps outside after losing a 19-year old patient. (Posted by a close friend and coworker on Facebook; We are both EMTs).”
It shows the doctor wearing a white coat, crouched in the dark, apparently overwhelmed with grief.
The photo gives an unaccustomed glimpse into the world of emergency room doctors and the largely silent emotional turmoil they suffer consequent to the nature of their work.
The depth of his grief and heartache after losing his teenage patient is apparent from his posture.
The person who posted the photo to Reddit was identified as a friend and colleague of the doctor. According to the poster, the doctor lost his 19-year-old patient after battling hard to save his life. The poster comments that although it is not rare for doctors to lose their patients, they are more often old and chronically ill patients whose death did not come unexpectedly.
But in this case, the doctor lost a teenager unexpectedly.
“The man pictured was unable to save one of his patient. Though this is a common occurrence in our field of work, the patients we lose are typically old, sick, or some combination of the two. The patient that died was 19 years old, and for him, it was one of those calls we get sometimes that just hits you.”
Comments by Reddit users, in which many shared their personal experiences, captured the poignancy of our common experience of grief at the loss of human life in which were involved either as a medic or a relative.
“Wow, this really hits home for me. I lost my father earlier last year from an aortic dissection. He started feeling a weird pain in his chest and within an hour he was dead. He was a perfectly healthy 49 year old man. The doctors kept reassuring us that he would be fine. When he died the doctors who were working on him at the UCSD medical center were crushed. I could definitely see it in their eyes. They called my house multiple times throughout the year to see how my family was doing.”
“My wife’s dad died the same way, but faster. He was looking at turtles in an aquarium and keeled over. There just happened to be two EMT’s there who practically caught him, and a hospital with a great heart center six blocks away. He still died, and the doctors just could not believe it. They were stunned and confused and felt awful. Their emotions were a comfort to my wife and her family. It freed them from expectation that they would ever understand.”
“Can you believe how easy the life of someone can be taken away so unexpectedly? No matter how young or healthy you are, death surrounds us everywhere and there is little that we can do. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I know I’m speaking in general here, and I know that we aren’t all the same, however when it comes to our work, nothing is harder – and I mean nothing – than telling a loved one that their family member is dead. Give me a bloody airway to intubate. Give me the heroin addict who needed IV access yesterday but no-one can get an IV. Give me the child with anaphylaxis. But don’t give me the unexpected death.”
But the poster explains that the doctor did not spend too long outside grieving the loss. An ER is a busy place where there are always more lives needing to be saved.
“Within a few minutes, the doctor stepped back inside, holding his head high again,” he writes.
[Image: Reddit via The Independent]