When the Lion Kills Your Child

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on February 4, 2017 by Louis M. Profeta MD

The heroin epidemic has spread to the suburbs, and a nightmare is playing out daily in hospital emergency rooms across the U.S.

Two days in a row, I straightened the sheets so they would look perhaps not quite as dead as they were.

My own child about the same age at the time sat in a room on the cancer ward of Sloan Kettering hospital in New York being treated for leukemia. I had been by his side for nearly five months at that point, spending nearly every night in a chair next to his bed. Since he was stable and between the lulls of chemotherapy, I was finally able to get back to Indianapolis in order to work a few shifts in our emergency department. I needed to still make a living.

Two days in a row, my first two days back, I sat in the “quiet room” of our upscale suburban hospital, where we take families in order to tell them the worst news of their life.

Two days in a row, I knelt down, took the hand of a woman my wife’s age, one that was soft and manicured and looked as if it had never held a cigarette or dug a hole in the dirt, and said to her, “Your child has died of a heroin overdose.”

Two days in a row, I stared into the frozen half-opened eyes of the cold bodies that could just have easily been lounging in the family room of my own house, playing Madden NFL or Monopoly while sipping a tucked away beer and surfing Snapchat. Cold, dead, lying on the cots in front of me, they stared back and I fought with every ounce of my being not to jump into my car or hop a plane and immediately rush back to New York to be with my own son.

You see, heroin is now a middle-class disease, which sadly means one thing: People are finally taking notice.