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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Death

A guest at the Park Sunset complained of the flu. His temperature was 101; my examination was normal, but patients with influenza have a normal exam.

He looked miserable, but he was forty-one and in good health, and everyone with the flu looks miserable. There was no reason not to give the usual remedies and check back later. This happened long ago, but I still remember the inexplicable feeling that something was not right. I couldn’t bring myself to leave him in the room.

Leaving after extracting a guest’s promise to go to an emergency room is a bad idea. If the guest decides not to go and something dreadful happens, I’m the last doctor he’s seen. Calling paramedics was another option, but they might not share my vague unease.  

Explaining that he required further attention, I took him to my car and drove to the nearest hospital. The next day I phoned. He had been admitted and died a few hours later. The doctor who cared for him was as mystified as I. We theorized he was suffering an overwhelming infection from an unknown source. Perhaps he took drugs. This was early in the AIDS epidemic, and victims sometimes died abruptly when their immunity vanished. We never found out.

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