I walked into the room of a dying man. This phrase might conjure up the image of a frail, white-haired patient peacefully nearing the end of life. Alex, however, was thirty–just two years older than me.
I was a third-year medical student doing a rotation in the ICU. This first encounter was sadly inglorious: As my team entered Alex’s room, the police officer who’d been guarding him walked out, leaving Alex handcuffed to the bed.
Alex looked like a ghost, his cheeks sunken and lifeless. A heart infection caused by his IV drug use was spewing dangerous bacteria through his bloodstream, infecting his lungs and spine. When not sedated, he was delirious, eyes staring wildly between wasted temples.