Doctors share their personal stories of grief after this heartbreaking image goes viral

'Patients will come and go - we will save a lot of them, but some we cannot save.'

Jon Stone
Friday 20 March 2015 13:18 GMT

An image apparently of an emergency room doctor crying after losing a patient has prompted an outpouring of sympathetic stories from medical professionals.

The image, taken from the Facebook page of an emergency medical technician and posted on the website Reddit, went viral, receiving over 4000 ‘upvotes’.

In the comments under the image medical professionals came out of the woodwork and recounted personal stories evoked by the haunting image.

“I know what that person is feeling,” said one user, boldwhite, who claimed to be a doctor. “Yesterday one of my 17 month old patients died. I was in the bathroom crying in private between patients several time yesterday. I've cried in stairwells and hallways.

“It eats at you. Life is very fragile and the pain of loosing those we are trying to help becomes a scar that doesn't go away. It has shaped who I am as a person."

Other users recounted the emotions they felt after trying to save a person’s life for hours and ultimately being unsuccessful.

“There is nothing like working on a case for hours to then have the patient die. This picture sums up my emotions and I am sure the emotions of many others working in the medical field,” said TheGreatGator.

“We are never formally trained to deal with loss and/or with giving the worst news of a families life to them.”

A nurse with six years experience, posting under the name KirinG said: “It's something that's given lip service by employers, but not really emphasized or given any thought beyond a quick 15 minute computer-based training module. It's a nasty fact that a lot of people try to ignore or sweep under the rug.”

Others questioned whether giving medical professionals more training would have any impact on how they coped with similar situations.

One user, Jacks_human, said the process of delivering bad news to a family did not get easier with time.

“No amount of training ever makes it easy to deliver this kind of bad news,” he said. “And no matter how long you have been doing it, it never gets easier. I know it sounds like a line from a movie, but it is the truth. Whether my patient is 18, or 80, I always end up leaving the room feeling awful.”

Roy_Vzla, a paramedic from Venezuela said the job ate away at many professionals’ mental health.

“We are trained to put aside our feelings so we can do what we are trained to do, I've seen people freeze at the sight of their first patient, I've seen EMT's who after graduate never go to the field, but those who do, lose a little of their soul in every case they treat, I've seen myself fade into this sombre shell of a person I am now,” he said.

Some users who were not yet trained medical professionals but looking to get into the profession said the responses in the discussion thread helped them understand what it was like to work in a hospital.

“As a third year medical student who wants to do emergency and as a former EMT, I want to thank you for this. I sometimes still struggle with the realization that losing patients is a part of working in medicine, especially in the ED,” said Jimbomac.

The user Smeeee summarised the feelings of many of the respondents:

“We are trained for years during residency to preserve life. We do it as much as we can, and resuscitation becomes so ingrained in us that work becomes machine-like. We empathize with our patients, yes, but we put our own emotions to the side.

“Because if we felt any swing in emotion - whether it be anger, extreme sadness, or pride - that might impair the way we care for the next patient we see.

“Patients will come and go - we will save a lot of them, but some we cannot save. And it's at this moment, this one moment, that we actually feel.”

The user who posted the original image said it had been shared by a "close friend and coworker" on Facebook.

Both he and his friend were paramedics, he said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in