A horrible day

Since arriving in East Timor I have seen many ill patients, but they have all made full recoveries. Children have conquered severe pneumonia and they have survived violent diarrhea. However great it was, my lucky streak ended today.

When I arrived to the hospital I learned that Alcanjo, my patient I described days ago, died in the evening. It seems while feeding, he accidentally sucked liquid into his lungs. He struggled to breathe for a few minutes, but by the time the on-call physician arrived, he was dead. He likely had very little reserve to combat any further illness.

I then was told Sarkosy, a patient with severe malnutrition I admitted a few days ago, died. At 2am his abdomen greatly expanded, he became blue and quickly expired.

Being a physician can be wonderfully gratifying at times, but there are moments when I am completely grief stricken. I am unable to quell the process of second-guessing my treatment of either child. I continually ask, “how could I have prevented either death?”

I am unsure what else I will take from this day, but I will now always have increased trepidation when encountering a severely malnourished child. One minute they appear stable and the next they are critically ill or dying.

Sarkosy during my first exam


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