We rarely have pediatric deaths in the emergency department and some of my most painful emergency physician memories are of having to tell parents their child is dead.
We had a three-year-old die this last week. The father brought him in lifeless. We started CPR, put a tube in his airway to press oxygen into his lungs and gave injections of adrenalin to try to get his heart started again.
As do most dead people, he stayed dead. He was one of those “syndrome kids.” He was born with severe physical and mental abnormalities. As a result, he was destined to die and early death like this. That realization blunted the pain in seeing him dead. The pain was also dulled by the realization that he was really dead when he arrived and there was nothing I could have done about it. Still, it was heart wrenching to be with the father as he held the body of his unfortunate son.
While we were trying to revive the patient, I noticed he had obviously been given some sort of a red, sugary, fruity cough syrup sometime before he died. He had vomited so it was all over his face and in his hair. I inadvertently got some of it on myself and the smell of it kind of haunted me for the rest of the shift.
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