By Sarah Teasdale, MD, EdM pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Hospital Boston
It was near midnight about a year ago when I noticed a gaunt young man in his early twenties walking toward me in the Emergency Department. It was a young man who, about a decade earlier, had threatened to kill me.
For nearly ten years prior to becoming a physician I was a high school teacher. That particular July, I was teaching English in summer school for students who had failed the class during the regular school year. It was a group of 15 surly teenagers ages 14 to 19, beaten down by a system in which they could not—or chose not—to succeed.
The young man—I’ll call him Andre—was my student that summer. He was a gangly, thin 15-year-old who often wore the same ill-fitting clothes day after day, rarely made eye contact and showed a level of fatigue in the early morning that was extreme, even for a teenager. Whenever I tried to talk to him, he would simply say he was “a’right.” He meant: Stop asking.
So I stopped asking. In doing so, I lost a chance to help him. …